Jul 31, 2020

Remembering Mets History: (2015) Mets Sweep Nats Take Over First Place

Saturday August 1st 2015: After the exciting dramatic walk off HR from Wilmer Flores the night before, Terry Collins Mets (54-50) were now just one game behind the Washington Nats (54-48).

Mets fans were excited with a new boost of energy & 42,996 filled Citi Field with plenty to cheer about. Tonight was the debut of the new Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes, playing left field & batting third. On the mound was Jacob deGrom going up against Joe Ross.

Starting Lineups

In the 1st inning, deGrom was shaky, two walks & a walk led to a base loaded two out situation. Ian Desmond singled in between second & short bringing in the Nats first two runs.

The Mets remained down 2-10 when Lucas Duda hit a solo HR in the 4th to make it a one run game. In the home 7th Duda came through again, leading off with another solo HR, his 20th of the year tying the game & bringing Citi Field to a huge roar. Duda was now on fire.

In the home 8th, Curtis Granderson doubled, with one out Yoenis Cespedes was walked intentionally, bringing up Duda. Duda delivered again, doubling off the left field wall, giving the Mets the lead they would never give up.

Jeurys Familia retired the Nats in order in the 9th for his 28th save. The Mets were now tied for first place & would never look back. In his debut Yoenis Cespedes went 0-3 with a walk.

Sunday August 2nd 2015: The Mets & Nats played the weekend series finale, that would determine who was to be in first place. The Mets (55-50) looking for the sweep sent Noah Syndergaard to the mound against the Nats (54-49) Jordan Zimmerman.

Starting Lineups

Syndergaard known as "Thor" in Mets world scattered seven hits over eight innings of work. Along the way he only gave up two runs & struck out nine while walking no one!

In the 1st the Nats began with a solo HR from Anthony Rendon. But in the 3rd the Mets attacked Zimmerman, Curtis Granderson & Daniel Murphy hit back to back HRs.

Two batters later after Yoenis Cespedes got his first career Mets hit (to a big ovation) the hot hitting hero of yesterdays game, Lucas Duda connected for his 21st HR of the year.

The Mets were up 5-1 & the crowd went wild as they went on to a 5-2 win. The first place New York Mets were up by a game & would never fall behind again.

Greg Jefferies: Late Eighties Mets Infielder (1987-1991)

Greg Scott Jeffries was born August 2, 1967 at Burlingame, California. Jeffries was drafted right out of high school in San Mateo, California, in the first round (20th pick overall) in 1985.

He became a minor league success right away, winning two minor league MVP Awards & a Player of the Year Award as well. He was hyped up as the next great Mets hitter, even Davey Johnson said “he could hit .300 on his head”. 

In 1987 he batted .367 at AAA Tidewater with 20 HRs & 101 RBIs.

In September of 1987, at age 19 Jefferies got a September call up, debuting in Los Angeles going hitless on September 6th. Overall in six games he was 3-6 as a pinch hitter on the season. 

The next year, he spent most of the year at AAA Tidewater because there was no where to put him on the talented big league club. He hit .282 at AAA Tidewater & got brought up at the end of August.

He went on a tear right away, getting nine hits in his first five games, batting .475. On August 29th his second game of the season, he hit a two run HR in the Mets 6-0 win over the San Diego Padres. In the first nine days of September he hit four HRs driving in seven runs.

On September 19th his base hit in the bottom of the 9th was a walk off game winner against the Montreal Expos. He would stay hot all through the September Pennant race, batting .321 in 109 at bats, with 6 HRs, 8 doubles & 17 RBIs. Although he only played 29 games he received votes for the Rookie of the Year Award.

1988 Post Season- NLCS: He played in all seven games of the 1988, NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Playing mostly at third base, while slugger Howard Johnson moved over to short stop. 

In Game #1 he collected three hits. With the Mets down 2-0 in the 9th, Jeffries led off with a single off Orel Hershiser. 

He scored on Darryl Strawberry's double. The Mets went ahead on Gary Carter's two run double &7 won the game.

Jeffries hit safely in the next two games as well & collected two hits with an RBI in the Mets Game #5 loss. Jeffries played a solid defense as well.

 Overall he batted .333 (9-27) with two doubles, an RBI & four walks. It would be his only post season appearance.

The Mets had to find a place for him on the field and ended up trading away the popular Wally Backman to open up the second base spot. Jeffries found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated & with a Starting Lineup Action figure before he even played one full season.

After two hits on Opening Day, Jeffries struggled in 1989 not getting over the .200 mark until late June. On June 15th he won the game with a walk off single beating the Chicago Cubs 4-3. The next day he homered & drove in four runs in the Mets wild 15-11 win at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

He hit well in July raising up is average while hitting safely in 16 of twenty games. On September 7th he hit a pair of HRs & drove in five runs in a 13-1 Mets romp over the St. Louis Cards at Shea.

On the year the Mets finished second six games behind the Chicago Cubs, Jefferies batted only .258 with 12 HRs 28 doubles 56 RBIs while posting a .314 on base %. He stole an impressive 21 bases playing in 141 games. At second base he made 12 errors posting a .975 fielding % turning 41 double plays.

Drama: Jefferies didn’t adjust to the hardships of playing in New York at the big league level so quickly. He was constantly frustrated and complained often enough to earn a reputation as a whiner by his team mates & the fans.

He would throw his bat in frustration when he struck out & was called a baby. threw his bat in the dugout he was called a baby, (it wasn’t until years later that things like that made other cry babies like Paul O’Neill be considered intense).

He wrote an open letter to Sports Radio 66 WFAN, when it was a new station criticizing his team mates for not supporting him. This only buried him deeper & the fans let him have it. He heard the boos loudly at Shea when he didn’t do well.

In 1990 things did get better, he led the NL in doubles (40) and raised his average up to .283, with 15 HRs, 68 RBIs scoring 96 runs. But the fans still wanted more due to the hype he had received early on. The Mets finished second once again, this time four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, which also frustrated the fans.

Jefferies became a target of the team's inability to capture the NL East in the past two seasons. He got hot from June 7th through June 14th in the midst of a twelve game hit streak, driving in eight runs with five straight multi hit games. 

On June 24th he led the Mets with a HR & Four RBIs to beat the Phillies 6-5 at Shea Stadium.

Throughout the summer he was hitting above .300 most of the time, driving in runs in five straight games two separate times. On August 3rd he topped off a Mets top of the 9th inning three run rally in St. Louis, driving in the winning run with a single off reliever Lee Smith.

A week later his three RBIs helped the Mets beat the Phillies 8-4 at Shea Stadium. In September he fell from a .297 average to finish the year at .282. At second he posted a .976 fielding % making 12 errors turning 49 double plays.

In 1991 he drove in the Mets first run of the year with a first inning double, leading to a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. 

On April 20th he broke a 1-1 tie in Montreal with an 8th inning double scoring the game winning run. After missing the first two weeks in May he hit safely in 12 of 14 games raising his average up to .284.

In July he missed another week of action, then returned to drive in ten runs in the week of his return. As the season went on he kept status quo finishing the year at.272 with 19 doubles, 9 HRs & 62 RBIs & a .336 on base % in 136 games.

 His time was up in New York, and he was traded with Kevin McReynolds & Keith Miller to the Kansas City Royals for All Star pitcher Bret Saberhagen.

Mets Career Stats: In his five year Mets career he played in 465 games(56th on the Mets all time list), batted .276 with 472 hits  42 HRs 96 doubles 205 RBIs & a .332 on base %.

Post Mets Career: Jefferies hit .285 with 10 HRs & 75 RBIs in one season at Kansas City, then got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Felix Jose & Craig Wilson.

In St. Louis he moved over to play first base, and had his best career year. He hit .342 (3rd in the NL) with a .408 on base %, 16 HRs, 24 doubles 83 RBIs & 89 runs scored. He made the All Star team that season & the next as well.

In 1994 he hit .325 (7th in the NL) with 12 HRs 55 RBIs in the strike shortened season. After contract disputes with Cardinals management, he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1995.

Jefferies was yet again in the top ten in batting that year (hitting .306, bashing 31 doubles. He hit .292 the following year playing in 104 games.

By 1997 he was entering the twig light of his career, as his average fell to .256, In the middle of the 1998 season he was traded to the Anaheim Angels for a player to be named later.

He finished up the year, hitting .300 but was not resigned. He went to the Detroit Tigers but injuries got the best of him, making him a part time player. He played two more seasons in Detroit, finishing his 14 year career in 2000. 

Career Stats: Overall in 14 seasons with six different teams, he hit .289 lifetime, with 1593 hits, 300 doubles, 27 triples 472 walks, 126 HRs, 663 RBIs 196 stolen bases & a .344 on base %. 

He played at first base (380 games) outfield (369 games) second base (346 games) third base (277 games) & DH (48 games).

Retirement: Jeffries was a hitting instructor at Total Players Center & has now opened the Greg Jeffries Sports Academy. He also works as a batting instructor in Anaheim.

He looks back at his time in New York, wishing he was a little more mature back then.
He said the 1988 playoffs spoiled him, and he misses the chance of not playing in a World Series.

Family: Greg is married to his second wife, Jeannie & has four children. They reside in Pleasanton, California.

George Bamberger: Former Mets Manager (1982-1983)

George Irvin Bamberger was born August 1, 1925 in Staten Island, New York. The six foot right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Giants in 1946. 

His dream came true as he made the 1951 home town New York Giants pitching staff. He only pitched in two games allowing four runs in two innings of work. Needless to say he didn’t make the World Series roster.

In 1952 he appeared briefly in five games, allowing four runs in four innings. He spent the next six years in the minors and fifteen years overall, mostly in the Pacific Coast League winning 216 games there overall. He had one last hurrah in the majors, pitching three games with the Baltimore Orioles in 1959. 

He stayed in their organization at various levels and then became one of the best pitching coaches in the game during the late sixties/ early seventies. 

Orioles Pitching Coach: In 1968 he was first named pitching coach for a mighty Orioles team under manager Earl Weaver. He was a firm believer in the four man pitching rotation, feeling the more a pitcher used his arm without abusing it, the stronger it became. 

He would hold the position for the next decade, getting to three World Series & winning five divisional titles. His pitching staffs produced 18 twenty game winners, including a record of four on the same 1971 pitching staff. That historic season Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, & Pat Dopson all won twenty games for Bamberger.

In his time as pitching coach he also had the privilege of coaching four Cy Young winners; two during his tenure- Mike Cuellar (1969) & Jim Palmer (1973 / 1975-1976) 

Then after his departure Mike Flanagan (1979) & Steve Stone (1980). Bamberger's pitching staff were first in the American League in ERA every season from 1968 through 1973. His staff was first in wins five times as well.

In 1969 he sat in the dugout at Shea Stadium during the Worland watched the young New York Mets staff out pitch his own mighty heavily favored Orioles staff. Little did he or anyone else, know he would be in the dugout managing the Mets 13 years later.

Brewers Manager: In 1978 he was hired as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and got them to over 90 wins for the first time in their ten year history. He won the A.L. Manager of the Year Award, with his team finishing in third place at 93-69.

 It was a tough division and the Brew Crew improved to finished second to his old Baltimore Orioles team in 1979, while winning 95 games. 

In 1980 he suffered a heart attack during Spring Training, and was sidelined for a the first few months of the season. After 92 games the Brewers were only at .500, and he resigned as their manager.

Meanwhile, in New York a new ownership took over the Mets ball club and Joe Torre was fired as manager after five losing seasons. 

The new General Manager for the Mets was Frank Cashen, who had been the GM in Baltimore during Bamberger's years when he was the Pitching Coach. Cashen went right out and hired his old pal Bambi, as the Mets manager for the 1982 season.

Mets Manager: George Bamberger told The New York Times: ''My whole idea is to throw the ball over the plate. The most important pitch is a strike. But the trick is to change speeds. Trying to pinpoint a pitch is crazy. Throw the ball down the middle, but don't throw the same pitch twice. Change the speed.''

In 1982 the Mets started out a little better than the previous years. In June they were still at .500 and more fans were coming to the ballpark. 

There really wasn’t much pitching there for Bamberger to work with, the staff was led by Craig Swan who would win 11 games. Charlie Puleo (9-9) Pete Falcone (8-10) a young Mike Scott (7-13) & a veteran Randy Jones (7-10) made up the starting rotation. As Pat Zachary (6-9) & Ed Lynch (4-8) also saw some starts.

To Bamberger's credit, Jesse Orosco said Bambi helped him develop his slider while he was in his rookie season. As for the lineup Dave Kingman’s bat wasn’t enough to carry the team, although he hit 37 HRs & drove in 99 Runs he only batted .204. George Foster (13 HRs & 70 RBIs) & Ellis Valentine (8 HRs & 48 RBIs) both came to New York with expectations, but they neither proved too change the team around.

The few bright spots were youngsters Mookie Wilson & reliever Neil Allen. At the end of the year the Mets didn’t finish much better than the previous season, going 65-97 in last place 27 games back of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.  

In 1983 after a 16-30 last place start to the season, Bamberger resigned. He said “I probably suffered enough , I'm going fishing”, feeling all the stress of losing in New York was going to give him another heart attack. 

He was replaced by big Frank Howard for the rest of the 1983 season. In 1984 Davey Johnson would take over and enjoy a successful run throughout the 1980's. 

Bamberger went back to Milwaukee & did two more years as the Brewers manager (1985-1986). His team finished last both seasons winning an identical 71 games each year. 

Retirement: In 1986 he retired for good, moving to North Redington Beach, Florida with his wife of 53 years. In 2004 he passed away at age 80.

Jul 30, 2020

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Yogi Tells the Press " It Ain't Over Till It's Over"

In July of 1973 there still wasn't much going right for the New York Mets. Injuries to the starting players were killing them. The teams biggest HR hitter; John Milner had been down with a hamstring injury.

Catcher Jerry Grote was out with a wrist injury. Shortstop Bud Harrelson had hurt his left hand when the Reds Bill Plummer crashed into him trying to break up a double play. He missed almost all of June then went down again with a fractured sternum after crashing into Rennie Stennett of the Pirates at the end of July.

Left Fielder Cleon Jones, suffered a wrist injury diving for a ball & then in June was placed on the DL after he was hit in the elbow with a pitch. Willie Mays was showing his age in center field, he could not be in the line up on a steady basis. George the Stork Theodore suffered an eye injury when he was hit with a ball in June, then he had the brutal outfield collision with Don Hahn fracturing his hip.

Jon Matlack missed a small amount of time after getting hit in the head with a line drive back in May. The bullpen was struggling as Phil Hennigan went 0-4 & was sent to the minors in July. But the biggest problem was Tug McGraw, he struggled through the first few months not getting his first win until August.

Quotes: It was then that manager Yogi Berra said "If you ain't got a bullpen, you ain't got nothin'".

With the Mets in last place and 12.5 games back in early July, New York was getting restless. This was a team that had expectations, especially with one of the game's elite pitching staff's & just four years after an Amazing Worlds Championship.

The New York Post ran a readers poll asking who should be held responsible & be fired. The three candidates were Manger Yogi Berra, General Manager Bob Scheffing or Chairman M. Donald Grant.

4000 fans responded voting Scheffing take the fall & Grant be right behind him. The popular Yogi Berra, always an icon in New York, received just 611 votes & his job was safe. When asked if Berra would be fired, Grant responded he wouldn't unless the public wanted it.

Berra was a legend but as a manger, he wasn't the most respected guy in the dugout. His leadership was questioned, because of his lack of discipline, totally opposite of Gil Hodges style.

Berra was laid back but maybe too much for his players to respect. If a player made a mental error he'd say "next time it's gonna cost ya", but he rarely followed up with a fine.

During one summer game Tom Seaver had pitched a fine game but was tiring. Berra sent his pitching coach; Rube Walker out to the mound. Seaver respected Walker & told him, I want to finish this game, make sure you go back & tell Yogi not to come out here.

Seaver probably would not have sent Hodges the same message when he was manager. But Yogi did believe in his team, he knew he had an awesome pitching staff. He knew McGraw would come around & he felt when his players were healthy it would get better.

When they lost a close game or had a bad break he said a streak was on the way; "we still got ours coming". Not everyone believed him.

When a reporter asked him "Is it over Yogi?" he made his famous quote that lives on forever "It ain't over, till it's over".

The Mets turned it around, won the NL East, upset the mighty Big Red Machine in the NLCS & came with in one game of beating the Oakland A's in the World Series.

Billy Wagner: 2006 NL Eastern Champion Mets Closer (2006-2009)

William Edward Wagner was born on July 25, 1971 in Tannersville, Virginia.

The farmer from the South, was originally a right hander but after breaking his arm, he learned to throw left handed off the door of his barn. He developed that arm into one that was known to throw a fastball at 100 mph. 

Wagner set N.C.A.A. records in the small school of Ferrum College getting himself drafted number one by the Astros in 1993. In the minors he was a starting pitcher and in 1994 led all pitchers with 204 Ks at that level.

He got promoted in September 1995, and in 1996 saved 9 games and would eventually replace Todd Jones as their closer. Over the next seven seasons (1997 -2003) he would save 30 games or more five times including a career high 44 in 2003. 

1997 & 1998 Post Seasons: In 1997 he finished off Game #2 of the NLDS in a 13-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves. In 1998 he finished up Game #2 of the NLDS earning a win, even though he had blown a save against the eventual NL Champion; San Diego Padres.

In 1999 he won the Relief Man of the Year Award , saving 39 games and struck out 124 batters in only 74 innings. He set a new MLB record for strikeouts per 9 innings (15) including, striking out the side 15 times as well as posting a 1.57 ERA. The Astros made their third straight post season that year as well.

In 2000 he tore his flexor tendon and missed most of the season, he returned in 2001 to save 39 games and be a leading candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year.He also made two appearances in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves.

His contract year of 2003 may have been his best season, saving career high 44 games, with 105 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched and a 1.78 ERA. That June he was one of six Astros pitchers, to combine for a no hitter, against the A.L. New York club. From Houston he went to Philadelphia for two seasons and saved 21 then 38 games respectively.

In 2005 he stated to the press the Phillies had no chance in making the playoffs. This of course irked some of his teammates & some of them confronted him. Outfielder Pat Burrell actually came out & call him a rat in public. At the end of the season it was no surprise he did not resign with Philadelphia. In 2006 Wagner signed on with New York Mets as a free agent.

Mets Career: He got his first Mets save on opening day at Shea, against the Washington Nationals. Wagner had a great start as a Met, he didn’t earn a loss until late June, by that time he was 3-0 with 14 saves and a 2.14 ERA. He rolled through the summer and was one of the best Mets relievers in years as he was able to close out the 9th inning. He went on to save 40 games (second best in the NL) for the ’06 Mets, going 3-2 with a 2.24 ERA, striking out 94 batters in 72 innings pitched, coming in 6th in the Cy Young voting.

2006 Post Season- NLDS: In the NLDS Wagner would get credit with saves in the first two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would be on the mound for the final inning of the 9-5 Game #3 series clinching win at Dodger Stadium.

He was the first Mets pitcher, since Mike Hampton in 2000, to close out a Mets post season series victory while celebrating on a pitcher’s mound. Overall he posted an ERA of 3.00 while striking out four batters in three innings of work.

2006 NLCS: In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, he closed out Game #1

securing Tom Glavine’s 2-0 shutout. 

In Game #2 he came into the 9th inning with the score tied 6-6, but took the loss as he gave up a lead off HR to Sao Taguchi, then two more runs on hits by Scott Spezio & Juan Encarnacion. 

He did not appear again until Game #6 when he entered a crazy Shea Stadium, to nail down John Maine’s 4-0 lead.

Wagner again struggled again against Sao Taguchi, who doubled home two runs bringing the score to 4-2. Wagner then got David Eckstein to ground out to secure the win.

 He finished the Series with one save, 0-1 with a 16.88 ERA in 2.2 innings pitched over three games.

After the Playoffs: In 2007 he put in began with another fine season up until August as the Mets closer. He had an ERA under two and had saved 17 of 19 games in the first half of the season, earning him a spot on the NL All Star team.

In July he was a perfect 8 for 8 in save opportunities. He had 26 saves and a 1.28 ERA by mid August when he took his first loss. He would blow four saves and post an ERA over three in the final two months of the season.

One of his worst memorable games as a Met, came on August 30th, 2007. Wagner came into the 9th inning with a 10-9 lead, but base hits by pinch hitter Tad Iguchi & Chase Utley won it for the Phils.

His old teammates completed a four game sweep over the Mets dropping New York's first place lead from 6 games to just two games. This Series made a making a big difference at the end of the season, as the Mets finished one game behind Philadelphia. 

As the Mets were struggling in early 2008, Wagner lashed out on his teammates, especially the ones who were not around for post game interviews. Many believe this was meant for the Carlos’ Beltran & Delgado.

 It was hoped that his words would have sparked the team a bit, but in the end manager Willie Randolph got fired & the Mets missed the playoffs on the last day of the season for the second straight year.

Wagner pitched well in the first half posting a 2.14 ERA with 26 saves, earning him another spot on the NL All Star team. 

2007 All Star Game: Wagner came into the game with two outs in the 8th inning with the NL Leading 3-2. Grady Sizemore singled & stole second and then Evan Longoria’s ground rule double tied the game sending it to the 15th inning where the A.L. won it.

In September he suffered a huge injury that hurt the Mets team badly, definitely having an impact on their bullpen for the rest of the year, causing them to miss the playoffs.

Wagner had torn the ulnar collateral ligament of his left elbow and also his flexor pronator tendon. These injuries required major reconstructive surgery, and he was done for the year & most of the next season as well. In an emotional press conference he vowed to return but said his days as a Met were probably over, and the team should move on.

For 2008, he saved 34 games posting a 2-2 record, with a 2.63 ERA striking out 80 batters in 68 innings. Wagner returned to the Mets in 2009, and made his first appearance on August 20th, striking out two Atlanta Braves. 

He would only pitch in two games for the Mets, before getting traded to the Red Sox for Chris Carter at the end of August.

Post Mets Career: In Boston he would go 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five games pitched. He played in two games of the ALDS loss to the Anaheim Angels allowing two runs in one inning of work. 

At the end of the season he signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent where he recovered to have a remarkable season. 

In Atlanta he emerged as their closer made the All Star team & was a good candidate for comeback Player of the Year. Wagner saved 37 games (5th in the NL) going 7-2 with a 1.49 ERA. 

2010 Post Season: He made his final post season appearance, pitching 0.1 innings in Game #2 loss of the NLDS to the San Francisco Giants.

After the season he retired finishing his 16 year career with 422 saves (5th most saves all time) finishing 703 games (6th most all time), going 47-40 with 1196 strike outs in 903 innings pitched in 853 appearances (36th all time) 

In his career Wagner made seven All Star Games & post season appearances.

Family: In 1993 Billy married Sarah Quesenberry. They have three children together. 

Retirement: After hos playing days he became a coach at The Miller School of Almemarie in Virgina. There he won two Independant School  Championships.