YANKEE GOSSIP: The Infield Dirt
Friends, Fans, and Met Lovers, I am always on the alert for pinstripe dirt. You knew that anything that’s less than perfect about the Yankees makes for great reading in my opinion. So I was really surprised earlier today when I read on MLB’s front page some excerpts from John Dewan’s The Fielder’s Bible! It exceeded my wildest dreams in Yankee infield (and outfield) dirt. I never would have made these claims myself, but I’m sure Mr Dewan can back up his claims with hard stats, stats that obviously don’t get past the censors at YES network.
He says that the Yankees were the worst fielding/defensive team in the AL, and that they have the worst outfield, and the worst second baseman (Cano) in the AL as well. They said Bernie Williams was the worst center fielder, and Sheffield was the worst right fielder in the AL in 2005! Just ignore what Dewan said about David Wright, who implied his defensive skills were not as they should be. We were JUST talking about the Yankees.
Listening to John Sterling you’d think the Yankees never made an error all last year. You can’t say that about our humble Mets yakking team, who tell it like it is, and do not beat their chests metaphorically or otherwise when thhheeeeeeeee….METSIES WIN….ttthhhheeeeeeee METSIES WIN!
We just bow and doff our happy recap.
Many joyous recapitulations to you this year, Met fans.
Japan Wins World Cup
I can’t believe I watched a game where no Mets were playing! (Just kidding!) What struck me most was how old some of the Cuban players were, and how young the Japanese were, they looked like rock stars, whereas the Cubans looked timeless, like they could be grandfathers. How do these Cuban players, and this includes those playing in the majors as well, stay in such great shape well into old age? (I’ll look into this question, interview some experts on the subject, and get back to you.)
Of course, the oldest of the old, was Sadaharu Oh himself, manager of the Japanese team. He must be going on one hundred. He probably saw Babe Ruth hit a home run on his trip through Japan in 1934 and gotten inspired to beat Ruth’s record.
The following is from Jim Albright’s website baseball guru: It gives us an idea about Oh’s accomplishments at the plate.
"For those who denigrate Oh’s accomplishments based upon the quality of play and/or the short fences, it is important to understand just how drastically one must discount Oh’s actual performance to drop him below the level of certain HOFers. For instance, everybody in the majors who scored more than 1643 runs is in the Hall. Oh has more than 20% more than that. Everybody with 465 or more homers in the majors is in the Hall. Oh has 187% of that total. Everybody with more than 4787 total bases in the majors is in. Oh has 122% of that total. Everybody with more than 1628 RBI in the majors has a plaque. Oh has 133% of that total. In short, one must heavily discount Oh’s actual performance to get him out of
Even down 6 to 1, I felt that the Cubans had a shot. You could see the determination on their faces. In fact, they did score six runs, but too late; the Japanese had a four run rally in the top of the ninth to put it out of range, inspired by Oh’s dominating presence. Both the Cuban and Japanese are worthy of the silver cup. We’ll see what happens next time. Maybe next time I’ll be selected to play on the United Algonkian-Speaking People’s Team. All announcements will have to be bi-lingual.
Coming soon: another expose of the Yankees; a critical look at the Yankees/RedSox rivalry through the years. Who is really the better team?
The Birth of World Baseball
copyright c 2006 Evan Pritchard for Amazine1.blogspot.com
Bud Selig and friends might want to believe they invented the World Baseball Classic, but the World Thing really started way back in 1934. Babe Ruth led an “All American” team to Japan just as the 1934 Major League season was ending. He brought with him his old friend Lou Gehrig, plus Jimmy Foxx, Lefty Gomez, and Charlie Gehringer. They played games all over Japan and defeated most of the teams they faced. The Japanese were thrilled and came out in droves to see him play, and see him beat them soundly. It was a preview reel for Mothra and Godzilla. Everywhere people were erecting statues and plaques to The Bambino. Some say they revered him as a God. Ruth was quoted as saying, “At one time I had wanted to be a priest, now I am a God.” They also liked King Kong.
The Bambino had a fine tour, with 14 home runs, and won the “triple crown” of the exhibition tour, with a better average, more homers and more RBIs than the other members of his All-Star cast or the opposing teams. Going along with that august crowd was a former catcher and reporter named Moe Berg. It is now known today that he was a spy, gathering intelligence on Japan for the US but spurious rumor has it that he was a double agent also spying for the Nazis. It was Ruth’s last masterful performance. Though he was so great in Japan, he hit only two or three legit homers the following year, and quit in May due to health reasons. He died less than ten years later, of throat cancer. Nonetheless, he managed to leave yet another legacy, and I hope that some day those folks at MLB and
Cooperstown give him some credit for helping to set the foundation for the World Baseball Classic.
give him some credit for helping to set the foundation for the World Baseball Classic.
The World Classic Today (written March 17th, 2006)
The World Classic, or “World Cup,” (not to be confused with the “Goblet of Fire”)as some call it, is a very different story today. Just like 1934, the Yankees are heavily represented on the American team, and just like 1934, the Mets are as hard to find on that American team as hen’s teeth in Japan. In fact, there were no Mets in 1934, and there are just as few Mets on this so-called American team. Present and former Yankees on the US team include Derek Jeter, ARod, Roger Clemens, and Johnny Damon. They have already been eliminated from competition, by Japan, Korea, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.
Where are the present and former Mets players in the World Classic? On the winning teams! Those players who have been touched by Mets magic in the past include Dae Sung Koo, and Jae Seo, both of whom are now pitching for the invincible (undefeated) South Korean Team. Koo has a 1 and 0 record in five games with a 1.13 ERA in 8 innings. Jae Seo, always one of my favorites, and who always be a Met in my mind, has 2 wins and 0 losses in the World Cup, with a 1.0 ERA in nine innings, with seven strikeouts and 2 walks. (Chan Ho Park by the way has a 0.00 ERA in 10 innings with 8 strikeouts and no walks ) Korea’s pitching is spilling the world cup of baseball, and making headlines around the world.
But the Met magic doesn’t stop there. Another team that is doing rather nicely is the Dominican Republic team. Reyes is 1 for 5 with two stolen bases. He actually got a walk, which doesn’t happen every day. Duaner Sanchez, the newest Dominican Met pitcher, has a zero ERA in four innings pitched, with two strikeouts. That’s just about perfect.
Team Puerto Rico is doing fine in the World Classic as well. Not surprising, as they have Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado batting 1.000 for them. Hey, I‘ll take half of that when he plays for the Mets this year. Jose Valentin is 7 for 24 with 2 stolen bases. Carlos Beltran is 6 for 21 with two home runs and 5 RBIs and 2 stolen bases, plus 5 walks. I’d say that’s world class. We’ll expect similar numbers this coming season. Jose Santiago, who made the Mets’ non-roster invitee list this spring, has an ERA of 1.13 in The World Baseball Classic, with 4 strikeouts in 8 innings pitched. Pedro Feliciano, another non-roster invitee to the Mets training camp, has not given up a hit in the World Baseball Tourney yet. Some guys will do anything to keep from having to do calisthenics.
Together, these guys have beaten the Bambino’s modern day successors, who would not let them play on their elite Team America. It seems as if Team Queens is taking the world by storm in their own modest way, which is appropriate since Queens is the multi-cultural capitol of the United States. One thing is for sure, baseball is not a white man’s game any more! If Babe Ruth were alive today, he’d be faking Spanish. He’d also be 110 years old. I can see it now, the Babe is coming up to pinch hit in the ninth in that last game in Mexico, and he sees Clemens. The Rocket says, “Hey Babe, I think we’re surrounded!” And the Babe, who looks remarkably like Pancho Villa, would say, “What do you mean we, gringo?”
More Than Just An Announcer,
A Father-Son Tribute
coyright c 2006 by Evan Pritchard
Mets fans, you remember Fran Healy announcing the playoffs against Houston and the World Series against Boston in 1986, and then the playoffs against the Giants and Subway Series in 2000, but did you know that Fran Healy used to play this game? In fact he was a Yankee for a while. But he played for other teams too, and had a lifetime batting average of .250, with a lifetime .980 fielding percentage as a catcher. Not bad for a play-by-play announcer who covered some great Mets years(1983-2005). What’s amazing is that between himself and his father, and a great old timer named Tom Healy, (no relation, as far as the families can tell) the Healys have played for some of the finest managers in history. Connie Mack, John McGraw, Bill Terry, Frankie Frisch, Jack McKeon, Whitey Herzog, Charlie Fox, Billy Martin, Bob Lemon… Imagine the stories that must have been passed down to a young Fran Healy, and the stories he could tell! Those three Healys have a continuous memory of baseball that goes back to the 19th century.
Fran, the Mets’ announcer who just retired, is six foot five, and his playing weight was 220 pounds. He was born September 6th, (Virgo) 1946 in Holyoke, Mass, (where he and his wife Gloria still live) and had his debut on September 3rd, 1969, just three days before his 23rd birthday, and played his first game just as the Mets were charging towards their first NL East pennant. Unfortunately, he was not on the Mets, not even in their league. He brewed his first “cup of coffee” in Kansas City, playing for the Royals. Healy’s claim to fame is having caught two no-hitters with Steve Busby of the Royals. He was one of the first “third-generation” major league ballplayers to come along, a part of a family playing tradition dating back to 1915. It is fitting that he is with the Mets organization, for his family had ties with the Giants, originally called “The Metropolitans,” and also the Athletics, who had their start in Brooklyn, just one exit away from Queens.
Although not related, Thomas Healy was born October 30th, 1895, in Altoona, PA. Thomas was on the Philadelphia Athletics under Connie Mack from 1915 to 1916. His hitting in 1916 was a respectable .261 and his fielding that year was .936, which was a good fielding percentage for those days–too many potholes, and such a dinky glove. In 1914, the A’s had won the pennant with 99 wins out of 158. The A’s had great pitching: Chief Charles Bender, Joe Bush, Herb Pennock, Eddie Plank (all with no hitters) plus Bob Shawkey, but they lost the World Series to the “Miracle” Boston Braves that year who had 26 game winner Bill James, who had an ERA of 1.90, and who threw 11 scoreless innings, and **** Rudoph, a 27 game winner. However, when Thomas was hired, it was after the great disaster of the 1914-15 off-season, and legal battles with the Federal League, and the A’s lost most of their players. They hired Thomas, who saw the defending champions lose 109 in ’15 and 117 the year after. It was like watching the Titanic go under. But at least he played under a great manager. Connie Mack managed 7,755 big league games, and won 3731. with 9 pennants. Thomas Healy retired after that year.
Francis Xavier Paul Healy, of Holyoke, was born June 29, 1910, and spent three years as a catcher with the Giants, 1930-1932, under the great John McGraw (who managed 4,769 major league games, which is pretty much the record, winning 2,763 of them, with 12 pennants). The Giants finished third, (87 wins) second, (87 wins) and eighth, respectively in those years. The pitching coach on that team in 1931 was none other than Charles “Chief” Bender, the Ojibway Hall of Famer, a no-hit pitcher and inventor of the slider, and one of the pitchers Connie Mack lost in 1915 when Thomas Healy was hired. Small world! One of the pitchers Bender was coaching on that team was Carl Hubbell. It is not clear if Francis Healy ever caught a game for the great knuckle-baller, Carl Hubbell, but they played three years together, so one might suppose he did. Hubbell won 17, 14 and 18 games in those three seasons. (Healy caught 14 games in 1932, when Carl won 18.)
Francis Healy, Sr. was there on June 3rd of 1932 when McGraw retired as manager and was replaced by the star first baseman, Bill Terry. Francis was there on June 22nd, when the National League approved the introduction of numbers for the back of the Giants’ uniforms. (The AL had had them since 1929) Healy played under Terry for half a season. Sadly , the team finished 72 and 82, not the numbers they had hoped for. Francis did not play major league ball in 1933, when the Giants defeated the Senators in the World Series, 4 games to 1, with Gus Mancuso catching Carl Hubbel’s knuckleball for the Giants. New manager Bill Terry went on to earn a record of 823 wins and 661 losses, with 3 pennants as manager, all with the Giants, retiring as a player in 1934 with a lifetime average of .341. But Francis was not to be a part of that streak. He spent a year in the minors at a time when money was scarce.
Somehow, miraculously, he wound up as a backup catcher behind both Bill DeLancey (batting.316 with 13 homers that year!)and Kiddo Davis (batting .303) on the 1934 “Gas House Gang” St. Louis Cardinals, considered the greatest Cardinal team in history, under the management of another immortal player-manager, the switch-hitting first baseman, Frankie Frisch, (who managed 2246 major league games and won 1138, not bad!) Francis Healy batted.308 on the season, outhitting Davis. He played in 15 errorless games, and as far as I can figure, must have caught at least one of the Dean brothers, or perhaps Dazzy Vance, Bill Hallahan, Tex Carleton, or one of the other great St. Louis pitchers. That team, powered by Dizzy and Paul Dean, won the pennant with 95 wins (95-58)It must have been an exciting season, as the Cards led the league in batting average (.288!)hits, runs, doubles,complete games and shutouts, and 2nd in triples and homers.
Francis did not actually play in the World Series for the Cards, but watched from the sidelines, as his team beat the “G Men,” Gosling, Gehringer, and Greenberg, and the rest of the Tigers in seven games, one of the greatest series ever played.
But that was it for Francis. He packed it in. He eventually settled down and had kids. One of them later became the voice of the Mets, Fran Healy, who was born 12 years after his father’s exit from major league baseball.
Fast forward through the 1940s and 1950s, and let’s see the videotape for 1969, and look in on son Fran. Though his forebears had short careers, plagued by misfortune in some respects, Fran had a long and interesting career, following in his father’s footsteps as a catcher. Like Forrest Gump, he too had a nack for being in the midst of history when it was happening, like catching two and almost three no-hitters from the same pitcher.
Fran Jr. got his first shot with the 2-year old Royals in 1970, under rookie manager Bob Lemon (who pitched a no-hitter in 1948 against the Tigers). Healy went 4 for 10 that year, giving him a batting average of .400, and didn’t make an error in 6 games. He was then traded to the Giants, the team that his father had caught for when they were in New York.
Fran Healy played two years for the San Francisco Giants, batting .280 in 1971.The Giants, under the watchful eye of manager Charlie Fox, won the division in 1971 with 90 wins and played against Roberto Clemente and the Pirates in the NLCS, but lost 3 games to 1. Fran did not have an at-bat in the post season, like his father before him. He and the Giants had an off year in 1972, although he had four doubles in 45 at-bats. Then he was traded back to the Kansas City Royals. In 1973, in Kansas City again, under rookie manager Jack McKeon, he was a .276 hitter with 6 homers. That year the Royals landed in second, with 88 wins, but six games behind the tea
m they replaced in KC, the now Oakland Athletics.
On April 27th, Royals’ pitcher Steve Busby threw a no-hitter at the Tigers, the first no-hit pitcher not to bat, as the DH rule had just been introduced. For Busby it was only his 10th start in the majors. Although he went 0-for-4 in the game, Fran Healy went down in history as the catcher of the first no hitter using the DH rule. The last one to no-hit the Tigers at home was Bob Lemon. It was the first no-hitter in Royals’ history.
With none out in the ninth, and one on, Rich Reese hit a scorching line drive down the first base line. Rookie Steve Busby’s badly fitting hat slipped over his eyes and blinded him during the whole play. He heard the loud crack of the bat, and then waited, thinking, OH NO!” The crowd screamed; then there was a massive cheer like Busby had never heard before. When he pulled the hat from his eyes and looked around, John Mayberry had snagged the line drive and tagged out Reese for a double play, saving the no-hitter. Bill Freehan popped out on the next pitch and it was all over, 3-0 Royals. He came within 11 outs of pitching another no hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers a few days later, and gave up only one hit before being removed. He was elected Rookie Pitcher of the Year and given a cash bonus.
The following year, 1974, the two made history again by tossing/catching another no-hitter on June 19th against the Brewers. It was the first no-hitter in Milwaukee since Warren Spahn did it in 1961, a game in which the duo faced only 28 batters, with a score of 2-0. That second no-hitter was in fact statistically one of the most unlikely events in the history of baseball. Here’s why: Since 1880,(ie in the last 125 years) there have been only 12 catchers to catch two no-hitters with the same teammate, and Healy had already become one of them at the age of 27, after only 6 seasons. Among those twelve duos are numerous dual hall of famers such as: Ernie Lombardi and Johnny Van Der Meer, Yogi Berra and Allie Reynolds, Roy Campanella and Carl Erskine, John Roseboro and Sandy Koufax, and Gene Tennace and Vida Blue. (These are such household names, I don’t really need to remind you of their first names, but perhaps one of you has been under a rock since 1920; needless to say the odds of pulling off two no-hitters were higher with these guys)But the chances of the Busby-Healy duo of accomplishing this unlikely event were by far the most unlikely of all. Busby’s lifetime average of hits per game was 8.51, one of the highest of any no-hit pitcher, one-timers and two-timers included, and Fran Healy averaged 52.2 games a year (95 the first year, 139 the second year) The odds against the same two batterymates notching two no-no’s is thousands to one (an average of less than one every ten years!) But for these two, the chances were incalculably smaller. Although Healy went 0-for-3, it was a 2-0 victory over the Brewers. This no-hitter was the first of the season, though it was already June 19th. That year, also under McKeon, Healy was a .252 hitter with 9 homers in 139 games, with a career high 53 RBIs. It was his best year overall as a player.As luck would have it, the Royals had a very unregal year.
In 1975, the Royals under McKeon and then Whitey Herzog, (who wasn’t a rookie but had managed only 142 games before) had an excellent year, and won 91 games, going 41 and 25 under Herzog in the final months of the season. The bad news is that the Oakland A’s won 98, almost an exact repeat of 1973, leaving the Royals 7 games behind. Healy played his part, and hit a respectable .255 with 2 homers, and managed to get through the whole season without catching a no-hit game.
Herzog shook up the team, and in early 1976, Healy was traded to the New York Yankees, and did well as a backup catcher for the indestructible Thurmon Munson, who led the team to the World Series, batting .302 with 17 homers with a .981 fielding percentage. Healy, playing under Billy Martin, batted .267, with a .983 fielding percentage, catching Ed Figueroa, Dock Ellis, (the pitcher who threw a no hitter on acid in 1970)Catfish Hunter (another no-hit pitcher), Grant Jackson, **** Tidrow, Ron Guidry, and Sparky Lyle, when Munson was off duty. In 1976, the Yankees won the division, and beat his former team the Royals, for the pennant. That was the ALCS that ended with Chris Chambliss’ famous walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth, after Brett’s 3 run homer had tied it in the eight. Imagine being in the dugout, knowing nearly all the players on both teams personally, as Fran Healy must have.
The team lost to the Reds in four straight in the World Series, and Munson played every game, so Healy didn’t get to play, again part of a family tradition. (Even Elrod Hendricks didn’t get to catch, but pinch-hit twice)
The following year, 1977, the Yanks did well, winning their division again, with Munson doing most of the catching, hitting 308 for the season with 18 homers. It was a big year for Cajun star, Ron Guidry, aka “Louisiana Lightning.”. Perhaps Fran Healy caught his hot sauce fastball once or twice. They called it “The “Blew-By-You!” in honor of Linda Ronstad and Guidry’s Cajun ancestors. And Mike Torrez pitched a good fastball as well. Billy Martin and the Yanks faced the Royals again in the ALCS, but once again Healy didn’t play. The Yankees beat the Royals, 3 games to 2, and then beat the Dodgers 4 games to 2. Healy’s average declined to .224 that year and his fielding declined as well as Munson played in 149 regular season games and all of the post-season games.
Healy had only one at-bat in 1978 for the Yanks, the year of the Bucky Dent Home Run, the year Fran’s former boss Bob Lemon took over as manager, the year the Yanks beat the Royals and Dodgers again, almost an exact repeat of the year before. That at bat, he struck out, and decided to call it quits. Munson died in a plane crash after 97 games in 1979. If Fran had stayed and worked on his swing in the minors, who knows? Maybe he would have been called up to fill in. We’ll never know. History had other plans.
Healy eventually became an announcer, and made more fame for himself as an announcer than a player, in part for his dramatic coverage of the famed Bill Buckner error. He is now retiring, more or less, as the play-by-play announcer for the Mets, at the age of 59. He will celebrate his 60th birthday on September 6th of this year, a witness to a remarkable slice of baseball history.
Note: This article was corrected thanks to assistance from Thomas Healy’s descendants. The family is continuing to look for a direct blood relationship between the three Healys, but at this time, we must consider them as two separate baseball families. EP
A look at the new lineup. What if they play now like they played then!
An overly optimistic scouting report from Evan T. Pritchard January 30th, 2006 updated March 9th
Mets fans have high hopes for the 2006 season and well they should. Omar Minaya has just bought the best team money can buy—three years too late! The Mets in 2006 could conceivably field a team of eight position players and a pinchhitter, plus seven pitchers that all had great seasons in 2003, most of whom speak conversational Spanish. The problem is, this isn’t 2003 (and this isn’t Spain, but never mind, New York City comes pretty close, linguistically speaking.)
Does Omar have a secret elixir of youth, taken from the very fountain that Hispanic Hall of Famer Ponce de Leon was searching for in the land of winter ball down in Florida, not too many seasons ago? Is he getting vials of it sent to him from Victor Diaz, another Hispanic hombre, and one who has obviously found something south of the border to pep up his swing in winter ball? Looking at these trades, maybe Omar has an inside source for the baseball equivalent of Grecian formula. If he can get these guys to do in 2006 what they did in 2003, the Mets would be a match for this year’s Yankee team in a World Series (provided they didn’t also find an elixir of youth to put a spring in the step of Bernie Williams and company).
Reyes, Jose SS .307 5
Franco, Julio 3B .294. 5
DelGado, Carlos 1B .302 42
Beltran, Carlos CF .307 26
Floyd, Cliff RF .290 18
Castro, Ramon C .287 5
Nady, Xavier LF .269 9
Valentin, Jose 2nd .237 28
Total about .285-290 145
METS PITCHING ROTATION 2006: Expected Performance Based on 2003
Pitcher ERA strikeouts
Martinez 2.22 206
Traschel 3.78 111
Zambrano 4.21 132
Glavine 4.52 82
Wagner 1.78 105
Bradford 3.04 62
Julio 4.38* 52 (36 saves!)
In summary, these few 2006 Mets would generate 145 homers, an average of almost 20 per starting player, with a team batting average of well over .285, (the Red Sox team average in ’05 was a mere .281) and their seven top pitchers would generate 750 strikeouts, almost 110 per average player.
Look upon it and drool, Oh Mets fans, because it probably is never going to happen. As Ponce de Leon noted, you can’t step into the same fountain twice. However he was not a Mets fan, and never heard the immortal words “Deba Creer!” (“You Gotta Believe.” )
Who’s to say the Mets won’t do even better in 2006 than they did in ’03? You gotta believe. But don’t look at trends, and whatever you do, don’t look at 2005; This group already started to show what creaking bones and aching muscles look like in action, which is why we actually have no idea what to expect in the coming season, do we?
Yes, history repeats itself, which could spell either relief or disaster for Mets fans, depending on what history you bet on to win. Personally, I’m hoping they all have career years, especially Julio Franco. But that would be like voting for Abe Lincoln for President hoping that he makes a speedy recovery and gets off the DL. In other words, some of these aging stars are already going from red giant to super nova as we speak, and as I recall, Dr. Emmit Brown’s "Back to the Future" Machine got destroyed in the third installment.
* His ERA was .59 better than Benson’s in 2003. Also, Kris Benson cannot speak Spanish. This is probably the real reason why he is now speaking Baltimorian, which you can accurately immitate by placing marbles in your mouth before speaking.
Goodbye Piazza I Hello Piazza II
Paul “Il Duce” LoDuca, The Greatest Met Catcher?
Copyright c 2006 by Evan Pritchard
You may have thought that the greatest all time Mets catcher was Mike Piazza, or maybe you prefer “The Kid” Gary Carter. Two of the greatest catchers who ever put on a Met uniform (not including Yogi,who was only a manager). But what if Paul LoDuca (whom I will call Il Duce, after Mussolini, another Italian with charisma) turns out to be the greatest catcher to ever occupy the invisible throne behind home plate at Shea? Hey, you never know.
It seems insensitive to talk about any one else right now behind the plate at Shea. Aren’t we supposed to have a year of mourning for the loss of Mike Piazza, complete with sackcloth, hair cutting, and Wailing for Tammuz? Aren’t we supposed to erect a monument between the right and left batter’s boxes in Queens engraved with an inscription that says, “Behold my works and despair” followed by Piazza’s lifetime stats. Let’s say we did and then don’t. and anyway, it would only mess up the visiting catcher’s view of the strike zone.
It goes without saying, at least on Roosevelt Avenue, that Mike Piazza was an exciting player, all those stolen bases…by the other team. His stolen base numbers are up there with Maury Wills, and I don’t mean he’s fast. But he had a certain personal power. I personally witnessed his personal power against the Atlanta Bullies in 2000, when he hit that granny and it was the most frigidly frozen of ropes I had ever seen. Surely he was a man of great power in his day. Ave Piazza!
Mike Piazza will always be remembered for his heroic 2001 season, among others. In that season, Mighty Mike hit .300 in a total of 141 regular season games, with 503 at bats, 81 runs scored, 151 hits 29 doubles, 36 homers, and 94 RBIs. Wow, what a year! Mets fans thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”
That is unless you looked over on the left coast and saw that a young Brooklyn-born catcher with the former Brooklyn Dodgers, and the former team of none other than Mike Piazza, in fact his replacement there in 1998 as well as here in 2006, was tearing up the basepaths in similar fashion. That young man grew up to be Paul LoDuca. Let’s do a stat by stat comparison of both players in 2001. Pretty amazing!
In that fabled year, Paul LoDuca had a batting average that was a full 20 points higher than Piazzas, and you can look it up (.320). He scored ten less times but only one less double. He had the same number of three-baggers, zero, not surprising for a backstop. And of course, eleven less homers, which is why Piazza was Piazza, but only four less RBI’s and four less hits, possibly attributable to his batting 43 less times in 16 less games.
Analysts might argue that the ten more homers by Piazza more than equaled the 20 fewer points in the batting column as compared to LoDuca. I agree. Most players willingly give up 2 points on their average for each extra home run during an entire year, maybe more. Plus, those missing 43 at bats are worth at least two homers. And folks who like home runs will like Piazza more than LoDuca. Granted. But let’s not be hasty. There’s more to baseball than batting. We can’t forget about fielding. Can we?
In 2001, Piazza and LoDuca each had the same exact fielding percentage as a catcher, .991, not bad numbers! Where LoDuca blows away Mr. Piazza is in fielding at other positions. Piazza in 2004 had a .982 percentage behind the plate, and a .985 percentage at first base, the only year he split fielding duties. These are weak numbers. In the year 2000, Lo Duca fielded 1.000 (As Yogi Berra would say, that’s pretty near perfect) in right field, 1.000 in left field, 1.000 at third base, and .992 as catcher. Did I say third base? You bet! Can you imagine Piazza filling in for David Wright now and then, turning in errorless ball every game? NO WAY JOSE REYES!
When it comes to filling in a first, LoDuca did that a lot in 2001, turning in a .990 fielding percentage, five points better than Piazza’s first base performance in 2004.
“So what?” You say. “Mighty Mike’s still the greatest! This new guy on the block…he’s just a slice of Piazza…with chili peppers!”
Okay, so maybe LoDuca will never achieve that which Piazza already has earned for himself, a plaque in the Hall of Fame with a Mets hat on. (He’d better not go in as a member of the Sandy Eggo Padres, or there’ll be **** to pay)And LoDuca, with his leg injuries, is now almost as lame a mule as Piazza was last year, so let’s be reasonable. But consider that LoDuca is still four years younger than Piazza, and his yearly salary is $6.25 an hour—I mean six and a quarter mill, with Los Metsos, versus Piazza’s $16 million of last year, and more than the 2 mill in retirement pension Piazza gets with the “Old Granddads” for this coming season. LoDuca has more to prove. Yon catcher has a lean and hungry look. He’s tough, he’s scrappy, he doesn’t dye his hair, he’s a native New Yorker from way back, and does not want to graze in the fields of ripe raspberries at Flushing Meadows by striking out. He wants his last four or five years in the game to make the history books, and not just as “Piazza Lite.” He’s going to play hard.
Mets fans have a lot to look forward to behind the plate, if LoDuca can find a faith healer from Los Angeles who will agree to come and sit with him in the Mets dugout between innings and massage his bandy legs. That’s not a lot to ask. In any case, LoDuca is the wild card on this Mets team. If he even becomes more than a shadow of his former self on the playing field, the entire team will be lifted up by his gung-ho attitude and amazing versatility. The guy was born to be a Met. Let him sit in the best seat in the house, the place behind the plate at “Shea Omar,” where Piazza used to hold court, but now does so no more. Piazza has turned his face to the west. Life goes on. Paul “Il Duce” LoDuca is the new leader. As the great Italian team leader Julius Ceasar once said, "Crede-Te!" (You Gotta Believe!)
Fire For The Game: The Last Days of Bret Boone
Editorial: “Fire For The Game” The Last Days of Bret Boone
By Evan Pritchard for Amazine1.blogspot.com
Bret Boone announced today at Mets Spring Training Camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida, that he has “lost his fire for the game.” He is calling it quits. Not that this is a total surprise, as he had made comments at the end of last year to the same effect, but we Mets fans we sure that once he caught a whiff of the excitement in the air around the Mets clubhouse, that he would be transformed, nay, transfigured by close contact with the juggernaut that is the 2006 Mets.
By the way, a Juggernaut is anything that inspires blind devotion or terrible sacrifice, such as throwing yourself under the wheels of Vishnu’s chariot, which started the whole Juggernaut craze in the first place. (We at ACME, The Association of Creative Mets Enthusiasts, are Jugger-nuts for the Mets, ready to throw ourselves under the wheels of the relief pitchers’ blue and orange and white Metsmobile any time, if it gets us a free autograph from Mr. Met himself.) But we realize that players aren’t fans, (or at least try to remember,) and realize that to them the sacred ritual of baseball is a business, just as creating new worlds is the business of the God Vishnu. In fact, they are in the business of inspiring our Shiva-like devotion in a Vishnu-like manner. If their devotion were truly blind, they would swing and miss alot.
Players who are not up to being our Fire Gods, who don’t have the fire to inspire our sacrificial offerings, $20 per ticket for the Pedro Six Pack for example, should not enter into the panoply of Willet’s Point, the Mount Olympus of Queens. If Bret Boone does not feel sufficiently God-like when he steps up to the plate at Shea, then I say “let him eat cake.” Mr. Boone, I realize that you may have excellent reasons for sitting down, and perhaps that laser surgery on your eyes didn’t quite take, but Kevin Costner will never play your life story in a full length Hollywood picture. Who would go to see Costner in a picture called “For the Lack of Interest In the Game!” Of course, there are more important things than baseball. True, the whole planet is as falling apart at the seams and seems slated for demolition just like Shea Stadium. But just as the band kept playing as the Titanic went down, on artistic principle, so should ball players continue with their tea-ceremony-like rituals even as the earth is shaking apart and global warming is destroying our national parks. That’s how the Samurai went down, with ceremonial dignity. So that’s no excuse for quitting the game. And so what if the laser surgery was bungled and you are now legally blind. That didn’t stop Ray Charles from writing songs; it didn’t stop Socrates from establishing the foundation for Western Philosophy, and it didn’t stop Blind Lemon Jefferson or Blind Willie Blake from playing the blues, etc. etc. And it didn’t stop a lot of umpires from signing up to serve in their capacity as arbiters of our national pastime, did it? Some of those blind umps do an excellent job at guessing on balls and strikes!
Of course we are disappointed. (Can you tell?) Signing Boone to create a little competition at second base was one of Omar Manaya’s greatest moves. Now we are going to see the Mysterious Dr. M. once more become an inscrutable figure at second base; elusively disappearing when runners slide into second with cleats up, and eluding reporters as well, I’m sure.
We don’t know what really transpired down there in Mets-Fans-With-A-Tan Land. Somebody must have said the wrong thing at the wrong time, like "Coffee, tea or steroids?" But it does seem like a tragic story that came to an end for Bret Boone, a Citizen Kane-like journey from innocence to experience in the big leagues. (Orchestral Harp arpeggios in rapid succession)
I am old enough to remember his major league debut on August 19th, 1992, 14 years ago. It was as if it was yesterday. (Actually I wasn’t anywhere near the place, but yes I was alive and breathing) It was with the Seattle Mariners. He played almost every game the rest of the season and though he didn’t hit for average, he got 25 hits and 15 runs 15 RBIs, 4 homers and 4 doubles in the remaining 33 games.
In 1994 he was traded to Cincinnati, and had a great year, batting .320 with 12 homers and 25 doubles. In 1995, he led the league at second base with a .994 fielding percentage, and then again in 1996 with a .991 fielding average. He also played third now and again. In 1995, in the NLDS against the Dodgers, he batted .300 with one home run and a stolen base in a successful effort to win the division for the Reds. Coincidentally, Mike Piazza hit a home run for LA in that three game set, while Boone hit one in the third game. Former Mets manager Davey Johnson was managing Boone and the Reds that year. David Wells was also with the Reds that year. Jose Offerman, Hideo Nomo and Pedro Astacio were there with the Dodgers. The Reds then went on to play the Braves for the NL pennant. They lost the NLCS to Atlanta in 4 games that year, as Brett Boone hit .214. It all seems like a strange dream to us now.
He is the grandson of Ray Boone who played from 1948 to 1960 a total of 14 years, the same length of career as Bret. Ray hit 151 career homers. His daddy, Bob Boone, who played from 1972 to 1990 with various teams, managed to hang around a total of 19 years, never breaking .300. Then there is brother once-removed, Aaron Boone, who said, “This is crazy,” after hitting that rabbit ball from Wakefield in the playoffs against the Red Sox to win the pennant for the Yankees. He was later found lying sprawled across a basketball court with duct tape over his mouth, forever scandalized by contact with the other sport. (He is now banished to Cleveland, where he runs the fireworks show after the ninth inning at the Jake.)
We will always remember Bret Boone for all those games he did not play for the Mets, and we will always blame him for leaving the abandoned baby called Matsui on the doorstep to the NL championship. Now, every time Matsui bobbles a double play ball, we can say, “Bret woulda had that!” knowing that we were probably right and that and a dollar and fifty cents can get you a cup of coffee at the mezzanine concession stand after the eighth inning. If there are any sand lot second basemen in need of a moonlight job, call the Mets at (718)555-1111. For English, press two.
Who now will fill the shoes of the Mets uniform he never wore? Bret Boone the ball player had a good life. He had 252 lifetime homers, the most of all the Boones, with 28 triples, 366 doubles, 1021 RBIs, 94 stolen bases. His lifetime .266 batting average was just about to skyrocket as a Met, as we all know. In fact, his 366 doubles was #29 on the all time active players list. All he needed was 18 more to pass Delgado on the all time active list. Now that he’s not an active player any more, he will lose that distinction as well.
Bye bye Boone!
An Editorial; copyright c 2006 Evan Pritchard
You remember Bob Cratchet of Dickens’ Christmas Carol fame, the one sat in the corner, slaving his guts out, making millions for Ebenezer Scrooge, while getting paid a pittance, unable to get medical attention for his family or afford a decent Christmas vacation, all the while being so nice to everybody, saying “God bless us every one!” Kind of reminds me of a certain third baseman for the Mets. He stands all day in that “hot corner” with his little visor over his eyes, making millions for the Mets while getting paid next to nothing for his expertise.
Our Cratchet is a good example to kids, and to baseball, by not complaining about the odd situation, but for the Mets, it’s penny wise and pound foolish. What if he has an accident moonlighting as a chimney sweep and can’t come in to work?
David Wright made a paltry $322,500 in 2005 in spite of hitting .306 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs in his first full year. This year, still not eligible for arbitration, Wright was forced to renew his contract for a more or less standard raise in pay, to $374,000, which is $47,000 over the minimum of $327,000 for a second year player. Marley’s Ghost! Sam and Seth Levinson, Wright’s reps, are good agents, and I’m sure they put the fear of the ghost of Christmas (or Hannukah) Yet To Come in the hearts of Mets owners, but to no avail. They couldn’t get Mr. Magoo to spring for the prize turkey.
I appreciate that the Mets could have legally given Wright a mere $4500 raise over 2005, and did better than that, and by a factor of ten, and that’s great, but I feel there is something Dickenzian going on here nonetheless. Here’s why.
In the March 1-13 2006 “Fantasy Preview” issue, ESPN picked David Wright as the second best third baseman in baseball, behind A-Rod. ESPN’s Fantasy Preview edition picks players based on trends and recognized value, and they put David Wright, not A-Rod on the cover of the magazine as the one to watch. This should worry the Mets just a little. If you brought Cinderella to the prom and suddenly a Fairy God Mother appears and turns her into the hottest thing in the castle and princes are lining up to dance with her, my advice is, don’t ask her to pay for the drinks! You might get a pumpkin tossed on top of your pointy head!
David Wright’s fantasy baseball value was a ******** $31. The number three third baseman behind him was Miguel Cabrera, of Florida, with $29. The number four pick at third base was Aramis Ramirez of the White Sox, at $24, the number five guy was Eric Chavez of Oakland, at $19. Pretty good company to leave eating your dust.
One of the reasons for Wright’s high marks from ESPN is his attitude with the press and in the clubhouse. The article mentions how he helped Cliff Floyd successfully with his swing, and other players as well. They describe him as a monster star in the making, and a franchise player. They expect an MVP year for him in 2006.
In the overall scoring, David Wright was considered the number ten top ranked player in the major leagues, based on trends and estimation of future worth in the fantasy baseball league. Here are their top ten in order: Albert Pujols St L; Alex Rodriguez NNY; Vladimir Guerrero LA Angels; Johan Santana MN; Derek Lee Chicago White Sox ; Manny Ramirez Red Sox; Mark Teixeira, Texas; Jason Bay Pitts; David Ortiz Red Sox; David Wright, Los Metsos.
Here are the Fantasy Baseball prices and positions as determined by ESPN, and the actual salaries of the players ranked five through fifteen (those within five of Wright) as of March 1st, 2006. As you see, it is truly a Tale of Two Cities, the haves and the have-nots.
ESPN Ranking Name ESPN Fantasy Value 2005 Salary 2006 (est) Salary
5. Derek Lee Chicago White Sox $33 $7,666,667 not determined
6. Manny Ramirez Red Sox $33 $20 M $19 M
7. Mark Teixeira, Texas $32 $3,625,000 $6 M (9.4 M in ’07)
8. Jason Bay Pitts $31 $355,000 not signed
9. David Ortiz Red Sox $31 $5,250,000 $6.5 M
10. David Wright Mets $31 $322,500 $374,000
11. Bobby Abreu Phillies $30 $13,100,000 $14 M?($15 M’7
12. Carl Crawford Tampa Bay $30 $625,000 $2,500,000
13. Miguel Cabrera Fl $29 $372,000 $472,000
14. Michael Young Texas $28 $2,575,000 not determined
15. Chase Utley Phillies $27 $345,000 not determined
As you see, David Wright was the lowest paid member of this talented group in 2005, followed by Chase Utley, Jason Bay, not exactly household names, then bargain basement baby Miguel Cabrera, whose star teammates all left Florida for greener pastures. On the high end you have Ramirez, worth $2 more on the Fantasy Baseball market, but earning $20 million per year, then Bobby Abreu earning $1 less than Wright by ESPN’s fantasy estimates, but earning $13 million per year in real life. Next is Derek Lee making $2 more than Wright in fantasy, but in reality making $7.6 million, then David Ortiz with nearly the same ranking as Wright, but making $5.25 million. I’m sure David Wright would rather be making the $374,000 than the $31, but it just shows you how uneven the salaries are.
Then if you look at the 2006 salary estimates, the picture becomes yet more Cratchet-like for Mr. Wright. Cabrera jumps ahead of ’05 by $100,000, Carl Crawford jumps up by almost $2 million. David Ortiz gets a $1.25 million raise, Mark Teixeira gets a $2.4 million raise and a promise of $9.4 million the year after, while Wright’s $52,000 raise suddenly seems like cold gruel.
When you compare Wright’s salary against those of his teammates, it’s hard to imagine them even going out to a restaurant and splitting the tip. In 2005, Beltran made $11.5 million, Floyd made $6.6 million, Glavine made $10.7 million, Martinez made $10.8 million, Trachsel made $6.7 million, and Lo Duca made $4.6 million. At least give the guy one million, so he can get his shoes shined with the other players.
We Mets enthusiasts want Wright to be happy, not angry. I mean, at very least, promise him a bonus based on performance, so he doesn’t feel more disrespected than Bob Cratchet felt when Scrooge said, “So let Tiny Tim die and decrease the surplus population.” I think we should all go out to Shea with coffee cans full of pennies (farthings if we can get them) and rattle them every time Wright comes up to the plate, pass the Rally Cap around the stadium and send him what we pull down in our lucrative begging activities, to help out with his family and get Tiny Tim off crutches.
The fact is that David Wright is one of the hottest properties in sports right now. In a free market, Wright could go to any team in the majors for at least $7 million. It seems risky—even Michael Jackson would agree that its not wise to keep dangling the bonus baby over the abyss of free agency —when some day Wright will be able to name his price and the Mets may not have the cash when the day of reckoning comes around, having spent the capital of good will already.
Everyone knows Wright is a nice guy, the kind of image we want as a “face of the Mets” player. The kind of guy who would remember a good will favor years down the road, and sign that modest contract just to stay with the team. What is the sound of one “invisible hand” of capitalism slapping its own face? Ask the Boston Red Sox, whose “face player” nice guy Johnny Damon, is now a faceless Yankee…for a few dollars more.
In Memoriam: Kirby Puckett, October 26th, 1991 “The 11th Inning Gamer” .
The Twins were down 3 games to 2 in the “worst to first” World Series against Atlanta, both teams having finished the previous season in last place. In the sixth game, Twins’ center fielder Kirby Puckett, (who’d been the home run hero in game five of the AL championship game) contributed an RBI triple, a key sac fly, and an outstanding leaping catch in center field. To top it off, he broke an 11th-inning tie with a solo home run to win the game for the Twins, 4-3, and tying the series. The Twins won the final game as well, 1-0. Their comeback was complete.
Kirby Puckett passed away yesterday,March 6th. We will always remember Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett!! A singular Twin!
First Pitch: Welcome to AMAZINE, An Unofficial Mets Fan Blogzine; amazin’ stats, stories, biographies, trivia quizzes, and more. A humorous blog site that dares to ask "Why is there Baseball?" And "When do we get to be in first place?"
I have to admit I have not always been a Mets fan. I grew up in Washington DC area as a Senators’ fan, an experience that prepared me for the role I now play as a Mets fan. I followed the 1969 Mets from about July through the World Series in October, but the Senators were still my home team. I moved to New York City in 1978 and followed the game in general. I became a Mets fan exclusively before the 1986 season began. I don’t know why. I was starting a baseball collection at the time, and it was like the clouds opened up and God said, "Let’s Go Mets." And indeed, they went all the way. In fact, my wife (at the time) and I were lucky enough to be at the game where they clinched the NL East. They were handing out free pennants that night, I guess they could feel it coming. Our son was there too, not quite old enough to wear the blue and orange, in fact he wasn’t quite born yet. But I’m sure he could hear the roar of the crowd when they clinched the NL East. It was pretty deafening. His first words were Let’s Go Mets, that is just after he said Dada. He later inherited that pennant and also my baseball card collection, which had alot of 86 Mets players, and now helps me with stats and stuff, following the Mets.
A few years ago we took a trip around the majors, to 15 major league baseball parks in about 3 weeks. That was nuts, but we had a wonderful time, even when the home team lost. If I ever find those photos, I’ll post them in our Photo Gallery. Please look at the gallery. I will be adding photos all the time.
I like blogging and have a number of blogsites, as I am a professional writer by trade. I’m glad that MLB is promoting fan blogs like this one. It helps us all keep in touch in a new and fun way.
This site is a "reader’s digest" so to speak of my baseball writings. To read some of my more indepth articles about the art of baseball, click the baseball bloglink.
Go ahead and comment if you like. We will be working out the bugs for a while yet, I’m sure.
Evan Pritchard MLB (Mets Lover Blogger)