In Spite of Losing Nady, Mets Still Have A Shot At Hosting A “Fearsome Foursome” of Sluggers in 2006Copyright © 2006 by Evan Pritchard for Amazine
July 31, 2006
For those who haven’t heard, Duaner Sanchez was in a car crash last night, 16 hours before the trade deadline, and suffered a separated shoulder which will probably require surgery. The news crashed the Mets victory party, celebrating their historic sweep of the Braves at Turner Field earlier that same day. Sanchez was having a career year, and though he can play again in a year or so, he may never be the same. Omar Manaya moved fast and traded right fielder Xavier Nady for aging reliever Roberto Hernandez, a middle reliever the Mets had already sent packing, and one other player, Oliver Perez.
Nady was one of four big sluggers for the Mets, and was definitely on track to hit 20+ homers this year. The Mets had three 20 home run hitters this year at the All Star break, tying an all time record. They are now at the 104 game mark, with 63 victories, on a pace to win 98 games, so that all current stats should be multiplied by 1.56 in order to project a full season. Carlos Beltran is on a pace to hit 50 homers, Carlos Delgado is on a pace to hit 40 homers, and David Wright on a pace to hit 35. Xavier Nady was on a pace to hit 22.5. He will be replaced in right field and in the lineup by Endy Chavez, who is considered better defensively. There is a chance that with more playing time, Chavez will fill the ravine in right, the gap left by the sudden and unexpected departure of “X Man” Xavier Nady.
The Mets also have Reyes, who might surprise us with a home run tear that will put him over the top, but there is no clear pattern to point to. Let Reyes be Reyes. Home runs are not a leadoff hitter’s job. (or yob!) Then there is Cliff Floyd, who has hit 10 homers already, but doesn’t seem to be able to stay on track.
If the Mets can end the regular season with four such powerhouses, we can call it a good year indeed. There is a great history of “fearsome foursomes” since the term was coined in 1959, and Mets players have played a role in many of them as we shall see in the follow-up article below.
Jose Valentin is on a pace to hit 18, Cliff Floyd is on a pace to hit 16, while Jose Reyes hit his 9th homer in the 102nd game to put him on a 15 homer pace for the year. Let’s evaluate each of these players separately as far as late-season power surges are concerned.
Valentin has been showing more and more power with each succeeding month as he gets used to being a starting second baseman, and, barring injury, is very likely to hit 20 this year if not more. He has enjoyed many seasons with close to 30 homers and was a member of many “fearsome fivesomes” with the Chicago White Sox.
Cliff Floyd only has 72 at bats this year, less than Xavier Nady. He has been plagued by injuries and slumps. He has often hit 30 or more homers in a year, no less 20. So far he has only hit 10, which is well below his typical mid-year total. He is capable of hitting 10 in August and 10 more in September if he plays full time. Although we cannot predict his year-end totals, it is not unreasonable to expect 20 as a final total.
Jose Reyes has been hitting homers on a light but steady pace since the beginning of the year, and just crushed his 9th to lead off the 102nd game, against the Mets’ arch-rivals, the Braves in a winning effort. He lost two weeks to a wrist injury but is now hitting for power again. Given his dominance of the NL offensively this year, who is to say he won’t add home run slugger to his budding Hall of Fame resume?
Lastings Milledge hit 3 homers in 30 days during his Met debut earlier this year. With about 60 days left in the season, it is not improbable that Milledge will finish the year with 9 homers. That will be nice, but wil not make a dent in our discussion of proven 20+ home run heroes.
Somewhere in there, we still have a shot at a six-slugger lineup, but with Nady gone, the chances seem dim. Ever since the 1961 Yankees became the first team in history to post a lineup with six 20+ home run hitters, the issue of number of sluggers in a lineup has become a topic of serious discussion. The term “slugger” has long suggested a player with 20 or more homers per season. This is how we will use it here. A number of teams have had 6 such “sluggers,” but only the 1996 Orioles and last year’s Texas Rangers have had seven. Losing Xavier Nady, who was on track to hit 22, pretty much ruins the Mets’ hopes of a “super seven.”
The M&M twins, Mantle and Maris, hit 54 and 61 respectively for a combined total of 115 back in 1961. But in addition to them, there was Moose Skowron who hit 28, Yogi Berra who hit 22, Elston Howard who hit 21 and Johnny Blanchard, who hit 21. Blanchard, a pinch-hitter and backup catcher to Elston Howard, was a surprising source for 20 homers, bringing the total to six hitters. That equals a total of 207 homers for the six players alone.
Since 2003, there has been an explosion of home run hitters coming out of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, as they go all out to try to outdo the other at any expense. In 2003, the Red Sox’ lineup included Manny Ramirez with 37 homers, Nomar Garciaparra with 28 homers, Kevin Millar with 25, Jason Varitek with 25, David Ortiz with 31, and Trot Nixon with 28; six players with 174 homers between them.
Then in 2004, the Yankees matched that record, with six 20+ home run hitters in their lineup as well. Alex Rodriguez hit 36 homers, Sheffield hit 36, Matsui hit 31, Deter Jeter hit 23, Bernie Williams hit 22 and Jorge Posada hit 21. These six players shared 169 homers between them.
In 1969, the Orioles had seven sluggers, starring (1.) Brady Anderson with 50 moon shots, (2.) Raphael Palmiero with 39 taters, (3.) Bobby Bonilla with 28 long balls, (4.) Cal Ripken, Jr. with 26 rockets, (5.) Hoiles with 25, (6.) Robbie Alomar, future Met 2nd baseman with 22 and (7.) B. J. Surhoff with 21 home runs. That’s seven men in a row likely to hurt a pitcher with the long ball, an amazing thing to see. Then last year, the Texas Rangers did the same thing. On that team, Teixeira hit 43, Soriano hit 36, Dellucci hit 29, Blalock hit 25, Mench hit 25, Michael Young hit 24 and Barajas hit 21. Given the circumstances, we can now talk about a “what if” scenario that would give Beltran 45, Delgado 40, Wright 34, Floyd 20, Valentin 20, and Reyes 20.
Even if Reyes doesn’t come out of nowhere to hit 20 homers he is on a pace to hit 20 triples this year, another yardstick by which sluggers are measured. By the way, catcher Paul Lo Duca, the Mets’ “Eighth Man,” home run-wise, leads the team in doubles right now with 25, on a pace to hit 40 doubles. He too is a kind of “slugger” that opposing pitchers learn to fear. So at least in that sense, the Mets will have power up and down the entire lineup. In this amazing year, it’s another statistic to dream on.
The Fearsome Foursomes (and Moresomes) of Baseball History…A Brief History of a Unique Home Run Phenomenon.
The New York Mets were certain to have four 20+ home run hitters at the end of the season. In fact, three of them made it before the All Star Break, a rare event in baseball history. However, with Nady gone, our chances are not as good to see a “fearsome foursome” at Shea. It’s a piece of baseball lingo that dates back to my childhood in Washington D.C.
Way back in 1959, the chronically feeble-hitting Washington Senators somehow had the good fortune to host four 20+ home run hitters in their lineup; Harmon Killebrew with 42, Jim Lemon with 33, Bob Allison with 30 and Roy Sievers with 21.
Some hambone sports journalist coined the phrase “fearsome foursome” in reference to these four Senators, and a great baseball phrase was born. The following year, Jim Lemon hit 38 dingers, Harmon Killebrew had 31, Bob Allison stroked 15 and Roy Sievers (who moved on to Chicago) had 28. The year after that, the entire team was traded to Minnesota and the Senators had to start over. They never again had a “fearsome foursome” combination, even the year Ken McMullen hit 20.
The new Minnesota team was called the Twins after the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and they carried the tradition onward for several years, using the Washington-grown term “fearsome foursome” liberally, to refer to their own hitters, many of them former Senators. In 1961 and 1962, Killebrew, Allison and Lemon stayed together as a combat unit, but were not able to generate the big homers. In 1963, the Twin Cities saw Killebrew hit 45, Allison hit 35, Jim Hall hit 33 and Earl Battey hit 26, certainly a “fearsome foursome,” which is what the media called them.
In 1964, the Twins matched the power of the six-way 1961 Yankees lineup with a fearsome sixsome, a rare occurrence in baseball, as we shall see. Harmon Killebrew led the pack with 49 homers, followed by Bob Allison with 32, both of them part of the original “fearsomes.” Tony Oliva matched Allison with 32 of his own, and Jim Hall hit 25. Don Mincher hit 23 homers and Zolio Versalles hit 20 to round out the six sluggers in that unforgettable lineup. It was only the second time that a team hosted six starting players with 20+ homers. Maris and Mantle had led the first team to do it, the 1961 Yankees.
The following year, 1965, the Twinkies had a fearsome foursome, but with much smaller numbers; Killebrew had 25 homers, Allison had 23, Mincher had 22 and Hall hit 20 home runs. Versalles fell an inch short with only 19 homers that year. Versalles was then traded to the new Senators in our Nation’s Capital, and never hit another homer as long as he lived. (Please note slight exaggeration from a former Senators fan!)
The Twins did not return to the “fearsome” category until 1986, when they started penciling a fearsome fivesome into the lineup at HHH Twindome. Gaetti had 34 homers that year, Kirby Puckett (now deceased) had 31, Hrbek had 29, Brunansky had 23 and Smalley had 20 homers. It was like old times. The following year, this same foursome continued: Hrbek with 34 homers, Brunansky with 32, Gaetti with 31, and Kirby Puckett with 28.
Unfortunately, the Twins have not been able to line up a “fearsome foursome” since. Although the “fearsome” term originated in Washington, it is now associated with Minnesota more than any other venue, and for good reason. They mastered the back to back homer like few teams since, in those golden years.
What happened to those hapless Senators, the expansion team that had to start over from scratch when the finally-hot Senators left town at the start of the 1961 season? (This was roughly the same time the Mets were born as you recall) Those Senators lasted only 10 years. Other than Frank Howard and Willie Kirkland, Mike Epstein and a few others, they were not a team associated with the home run. They almost never broke .500, and when they did the entire town went out to the airport to greet them. I remember, I was there; they let us walk right out onto the tarmac. The team was then again sent to another part of the country, to become the Texas Rangers, but this time there was no expansion or replacement. We were “downsized” down to nothing. Michael Moore is working on a documentary about it called “Robert Short and Me.”
Just as the old team only really flourished after being transplanted to a distant state, “Senators 2” as they are called by MLB stat sheets, suddenly flourished in the golden sunlight of central Texas, leaving a gaping black hole in the hearts of those who used to make the pilgrimage of absolute humility to DC Stadium every week to see the real Nats. In 1992, the expatriated Senators, now called the Texas Rangers began a belated “fearsome foursome” tradition of their own. Some suggest that they may have discovered some rare cactus in the desert that year and found that its juices gave them superhuman, though temporary, and possibly fatal powers, when ingested or rubbed on the joints and ligaments. But then, Texas is known for its tall tales, such as how hot their hot sauce really is.
That year, Juan Gonzalez hit 43 homers, noted author Jose Canseco hit 26, Palmer hit 26, and Raphael Palmiero hit 22. In 1999, Texas featured the fourth “fearsome sixsome” in history and with big numbers: Palmiero hit 47 big ones, Gonzalez hit 39, Ivan Rodriguez hit 35, Stevens hit 24, Todd Zeile, the future Mets star, hit 24, (he was probably pouring that secret formula Texas hot sauce on his ballpark wieners) and Greer hit 20, becoming the sixth player in the lineup to make 20 homers that year. In 2001, the somewhat juiced Texas team put forth Alex Rodriguez with 52 homers, Raphael Palmiero with 47, Ivan Rodriguez with 25, and Ruben Sierra with 23. Some of these names will be familiar to New York sports fans.
In 2003, good fortune and a little more secret Texas formula hot sauce helped the Texas Rangers yet again, and they found themselves sporting another “Fearsome fivesome” in their lineup. A-Rod had 47 homers, Palmiero had 38, Blalock had 29, Teixeira had 26, and Juan Gonzalez had 24. In 2004, Texas saw Teixiera hit 38 homers, Blalock hit 32, Soriano hit 28, Kevin Mench hit 26, and Young hit 22, another “fearsome fivesome.”
Last year, in 2005, Texas tied the 1996 Baltimore Orioles major league record with seven sluggers in a lineup with more than 20 homers. Teixeira had 43, Soriano had 36, Dellucci had 29, Blalock had 25, Mench had 25, Young had 24 and Barajas had 21 taters accordingly. These drawling new Senators of the south had managed to form a “fearsome seven-some,” something their eastern ancestors could not have imagined. They were only the second team to hit the seven mark, after the 1996 Orioles.
Back in 1962, the year after the 1961 “M&M lineup” at Yankee Stadium made six the new number to beat, the Detroit Tigers put together a fearsome foursome of their own that started an amazing tradition in Detroit. During the 1960s, no other team came close to having as many “fantastic foursomes,” as did the Detroit Tigers, putting together four in a row, between 1966 and 1969.
In ’62 the Motor City saw Norm Cash hit 39, Rocky Colovito hit 37, Al Kaline hit 29 and C. Fernandez hit 20 homers. In 1966, Norm Cash hit 32, Al Kaline hit 29, Willie Horton hit 27 and **** McAuliffe hit 23. In 1967, Cash hit 22, Kaline hit 25, McAuliffe hit 22 and Bill Freehan hit 20. In 1968, Willie Horton hit 36, Norm Cash hit 25, Bill Freehan hit 25 and Jim Northrup hit 21. In 1969, Willie Horton hit 28, Northrup hit 25, Cash hit 22 and Kaline hit 21. That was the last four track hit from Motown until 1985. In that year, Evans hit 40 homers, Kirk Gibson hit 29, Lance Parrish hit 28 and Whitaker hit 21 home runs respectively. The following year, 1986, the Tigers became the third team in baseball history to host six sluggers in one lineup; Evans hit 29 homers, Kirk Gibson hit 28, Lance Parrish hit 22, Alan Trammel hit 21, Coles hit 20 and Whitaker hit 20 respectively.
In 1987, the Tigers had their first “fearsome fivesome” with Evans hitting 34 homers, M. Nokes hitting 32, Trammel hitting 28, Gibson hitting 24 and Chet Lemon hitting 20. In 1991, Detroit returned again with yet another “fearsome fivesome,” with Cecil Fielder’s 44, Tettleton’s 31, Deer’s 25, Whitaker’s 23, and Fryman’s 21 home runs on the year respectively. Then in 1992, the Tigers put together their last “fearsome foursome” led by Cecil Fielder. Fielder had 35 homers, Deer had 32, Tettleton had 32, and Fryman had 20 homers. The slugging Tigers, the team of Hank Greenberg, went into decline in the long ball department, culminating in the closing of Tiger Stadium in 1998 and its demolition this year. The new stadium, CoAmerica Park opened the following year, and the Tigers began a long steady revival, including a return to the long ball.
For a long time, the Yankees, Twins, and Tigers were alone in their “fearsomeness,” hosting six back to back sluggers in a lineup. Then, in 1996, the Baltimore Orioles quietly broke the slugger barrier, and broke the old record held by the 1961 Yankees, the 1964 Twins, and the 1986 Tigers.
Baltimore had long been rivals of the Senators, only 40 miles away and in the same league. In the old days they were never much for “fearsome foursomes,” but in 1966, they got into the act in a big way, blowing away the meek and humble Senators down the street with their awesome power. They had Frank Robinson with 49 homers that year, followed by Boog Powell with 34, Curt Blefary with 23 and Brooks Robinson with 23. Just to rub it in, the Baltimore press called them “The Fearsome Foursome.” It was a Chesapeake phenomenon that tended to happen emerge in ten year cycles, like bumper crop clam years. In 1978, the Boo Birds struck again with Decinces who had 28, Eddie Murray with 27, Lee May with 25, and Ken Singleton with 20, a new fearsome foursome.
In 1985, the Orioles were led by Eddie Murray into another fearsome foursome; Eddie had 31 homers, Young had 28, Cal Ripken, Jr. had 26 and Fred Lynn (did you remember him as an Oriole?) hit 23.
In 1996, the Orioles had a bumper crop that busted all previous records, with seven hitters in a row with 20 or more homers. Although tied last year by Texas, that record still stands.
Since ’96, the 2000 White Sox, the 2001 Cleveland Indians, the 2004 Yankees, and the 2003 Red Sox have all had fearsome sixsomes, but rolled no sevens. That record of seven sluggers may occasionally be tied, but it will probably never be broken.
There are several other teams that have entered into the “fearsome” contest, (surprisingly, most have not, at least not since the term was coined) but few with as much consistency as the Boston Red Sox, fueled not so much by “juice” as by that infernal green wall that stands in left field, a stumbling block to baseball logic and to all pitchers who hate the long ball.
It all started in 1969 when Carl Yazstremski and Rico Petrocelli both hit 40 homers, followed by Reggie Smith with 25 and Tony Conigliaro with 20. That was a quartet as legendary that year as the Beatles. The following year, the band got back together, so to speak, and the “fab four” of Boston returned in full force. Yaz ripped 40, Conigliero hit 36, Petrocelli chalked up a less insane 29 while Reggie Smith went with 22.
Then in 1976, the year of the World Series against the Reds and the “Carlton Fisk Home Run,” the Sox surged again. Jim Rice hit 39 homers, George Scott hit 33, Butch Hobson hammered 30, Yazstremski knocked 28 and Carlton Fisk walloped 26, a five-way fireworks display.
In 1978, Boston returned to the four-cornered format with Rice hitting 46, Dwight Evans hitting 24, Fred Lynn hitting 22 and Carlton Fisk hitting 20. In 1979, in the twilight years of Carl Yazstremski, they managed another fearsome five, with Fred Lynn and Jim Rice leading the way with 39 homers each, Butch Hobson with 28, Dwight Evans with 21 and an aging Carl Yazstremski with 21 as well. In 1984, another Red Sox dynasty began, and Tony Armas led the team with 43 homers, Dwight Evans next with 32, Jim Rice with 28, Mike Easler with 27 and Rich Gedman with 24, another fivesome to remember.
In 1998, the Red Sox finally returned to old form, led by now-retired Met Mo Vaughn, who slugged 40 ********, followed by Nomar with 35, Stanley with 29, O’Leary with 23 and Jose Valentin, also with 23, mentioned earlier. In 1999, the Sox had a fivesome featuring O’Leary with 28, Garciaparra with 27, B. Huskey with 22, B. Daubach with 21 and Jason Varitek with 20 homers. In 2002, Boston returned to power, with another fivesome; Manny Ramirez had 33 homers, Garciaparra had 29, Trot Nixon had 24, B. Daubach had 20 and little David Ortiz had 20 as well, that year.
In 2003, the Red Sox tied the 1961 Yankees mark with six consecutive sluggers in the lineup. It was an awe-inspiring crew led by Manny Ramirez in one of his greatest roles. He hit 37 homers, while Garciaparra hit 28, Ortiz hit 31, Trot Nixon hit 28, Kevin Millar hit 25 and Jason Varitek hit 25. Surprisingly, the power mad 2004 and 2005 teams did not have more than three players with more than 20 homers, but overall, to date, few teams have lined up sluggers like the Boston Red Sox have since 1959.
In 2000, the Athletics got into a groove in regard to slugging lineups. That somewhat juicy year Jason Giambi hit 43, Miguel Tejada hit 30, Grieve hit 27, Eric Chavez hit 26 and Matt Stairs hit 21 homers for the Athletics, respectively.
In 2001, Oakland produced a quartet of bat whackers, when Jason Giambi hit 38 homers, Eric Chavez hit 32, Miguel Tejada hit 31 and Jermaine Dye hit 26. In 2002, the A’s fell short one slugger, but Eric Chavez led the team in homers anyway, with an impressive 34 round-trippers. In 2003, Eric Chavez again led the team in homers with 29, followed by Tejada with 27, E. Durazo with 21, and Ramon Hernandez with 21, for a cool quartet. In 2004, Chavez again led the A’s in homers with 29, followed by Jermaine Dye with 23, Bubba Crosby with 22, E. Durazo with 22, and E. Byrnes with 20, forming another fearsome fivesome in the west with names familiar now to New Yorkers. If Jose Valentin, who played very little before June 2nd, stays hot at the plate, he could certainly pass the 20 mark and be the fourth Met of a ‘Fearsome Foursome.”
OTHER SLUGGING LINEUPS
The only other American League teams that have made the grade since 1959 are the 1974 and 1975 Oakland Athletics (4) the 1979 and 1980 Milwaukee Brewers (4) the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers (5) the 1982 California Angles (5) 1995 Cleveland Indians (5) 1991 Seattle Mariners (5) the 1997 and 1978 Seattle Mariners (5/4) the 1998 Seattle Mariners (4) the 1998 Yankees (4) the 1999 Cleveland Indians (6) the 2000 Los Angeles Angels (5) the 2001 Cleveland Indians (6) the 2001 and 2002 Yankees (5) (2002 including Ventura of the Mets) the 2004 Cleveland Indians (5) and the National League which I’ll get to in a later post.
One of the interesting things about this new Mets lineup, is that several of the players have been in “fearsome foursomes” before. You probably already noted that Robbie Alomar was a member of the Baltimore Seven, but coach Rickey Henderson was part of the 1990 Oakland Athletics foursome that included Mark McGuire with 39 homers, Jose Canseco with 37, Henderson with 28 and D. Henderson with 20 homers.
Not too surprisingly, Carlos Delgado has been in a sextet of swat before. In 2000, while playing on the Toronto Blue Jays, he led the team with 41 homers, along with Batista also with 41, followed by Fullmer with 32, then Jose Cruz with 31, then Raul Mondesi with 24, then S. Stewart with 21. While often in a three-way homer constellation with the Blue Jays, that was his only previous experience with a six-pack of sluggers…that is until this year, we hope.
Former Met star (and former husband to Holly Berry) David Justice was on the 1997 Cleveland Indians’ fivesome, with Jim Thome hitting 40, Justice whacking 33, M. Williams hitting 32, Manny Ramirez hitting 26, and (Mets 1st base coach) Sandy Alomar hitting 21. Former Met Darryl Strawberry was on the 1998 Yankees “foursome” including Tino Martinez with 28, Bernie Williams with 26, Paul O’Neill with 24 and Strawberry with 24 home runs for that team, one of the best Yankee teams of all time.
But most Mets fans will be surprised to learn that Jose Valentin, the Met Most Likely To Get Us A “Fearsome Foursome” rating, has been on numerous legendary “foursomes” and “fivesomes” in the past.
In 1998 he was a member of the Boston “fivesome” that included former Met Mo Vaughn. Mo hit 40 that year (not that he ever did that for us…) Garciaparra hit 35, Stanley hit 29, O’Leary hit 23 and Jose Valentin hit 23 that year, just making it into the group. In 2000, he became part of a sensational sixsome with the Chicago White Sox, in which Frank Thomas hit 43 homers, Magglio Ordonez hit 32, C. Johnson hit 31, Jose Valentin hit 25, Carlos Lee hit 25, and Paul Konerko hit 21 home runs respectively.
In 2001, Valentin became part of history again as the White Sox gave birth to a quintuplet of quality. Paul Konerko hit 32 dingers, Magglio Ordonez hit 31, Valentin hit 28, Carlos Lee hit 24, and Ray Durham hit 20 homers. In 2002, the White Sox repeated the quintuplet trick as Ordonez hit 38 homers, Frank Thomas hit 28, Paul Konerko hit 27, Carlos Lee hit 26 and Jose Valentin hit 25. This guy is everywhere! In 2003, Frank Thomas hit 42 ********, while Carlos Lee his 31, M. Ordonez hit 29, Carl Everett hit 28 and Jose Valentin hit 28 as well, adding up to a fivesome of note. They repeated the trick again in 2004, and again Jose Valentin was right there in the middle of it. Konerko hit 41 homers, Carlos Lee hit 31, Jose Valentin hit 30, Aaron Rowand hit 24, Jason Uribe hit 23 and J. Crede hit 21, for a total of five back to back sluggers in the lineup. By the way, the White Sox only managed a foursome in 2005 without Jose Valentin’s home run prowess to guide the way. Last year Konerko hit 40, Jermain Dye hit 31, Carl Everett hit 23, and J. Crede his 22 homers respectively, a mere fourway slugfest, which nonetheless managed to win them the World Championship.
Valentin has been part of five fivesomes and one six-way slugclub during his still expanding baseball career, including a streak of five consecutive years as part of this home run phenomenon with the Chicago White Sox. Last year was an off year for him, but I suspect that he will want to hit at least 20 whacks this year so that he can keep to his personal habits and be part of a Mets five-or-moresome this year. Endy Chavez, on the other hand, is no Eric Chavez, and has only two homers on the year. That is probably all he’ll ever do.
Given the above, the “fearsome foursome, fivesome, or sixsome” is still a relatively rare phenomenon in baseball. There have only been two teams with a lineup of seven sluggers so far in history. If the Mets can get Reyes to whack a few more out of the park along with all those triples, if Cliff Floyd can overcome his aches and pains, finding his famous home run swing in the process, and if Valentin can catch up from his two lost months, I think that we will see a lineup that will be remembered as one of the 2006 Mets finest accomplishments. It won’t have seven such home run heroes, but five would be pretty cool.
Carlos Beltran and Mickey Mantle—The Forbidden Comparison
Copyright © 2006 by Evan Pritchard for Amazine
July 30th, 2006
Earlier this year, Beltran was voted by People Magazine as one of the most attractive people of 2006. He is also now to be considered the best power-hitting center fielder in Mets history. Good thing. For that money, he should be a rock star who walks on water and hits 10 run homers in his sleep. Nonetheless, Mets fans are starting to compare him to great legendary outfielders from the past, like Cedeno…Strawberry…Ken Griffey, Jr., Yazstremski….and that other guy we’re not supposed to compare to anyone….that…YANKEE! (And I don’t mean Bernie Williams)
After 104 games played the Mets have won 63 and lost 41. Multiply times 1.56 and you get 98 wins on the year, the projected total at this point. Given the goings on in the NL east, that should be good enough for a pennant. Multiply Beltran’s current stats by 1.56 as well, and you get some figures reminiscent of, that’s right, Mickey Mantle. Ooops! Shhhh! We’re not supposed to say that!
Mantle and Beltran are both switch hitting center fielders from first place New York teams. Both have become glamorous figures in the media. Both have had large salaries for their era. Both had slumps their first year playing in New York. Why are we not supposed to talk about their similar stats?????
Here’s some hard facts. Beltran currently has played in 93 games out of 104. He has 347 at bats, 81 runs scored, 98 hits, 24 doubles, no triples, 32 homers, 94 runs batted in. He has 215 total bases, with 59 walks and 67 strikeouts. He has stolen 14 bases and has been thrown out 3 times. His on base percentage is .385, his slugging average is.628 and his batting average is at .282.
If you project this out to the end of the season based on percentage of Mets games played, multiplying them by 1.56, you get: 145 games played, 541 at bats, 126 runs scored, 153 hits, 37 (and a half) doubles, no triples, 50 homers, 147 RBIs, 335 total bases, 92 walks, 104 strikeouts, 22 stolen bases, caught stealing only 5 times. His on base percentage would be the same, .385, with a .628 slugging percentage, and a batting average of .282.
It is not unreasonable to expect 145 games from Beltran; even the accident-prone Mantle once had 549 at bats in a season, about what Beltran will have in the above scenario (541). But look at this: Beltran’s 37 doubles will equal Mantle’s career high set back in 1952, when he was only 20 years old. Beltran’s 50 homers will come dangerously close to Mantle’s career high of 54 set in 1961, in that famous race with Maris to beat Ruth’s record, and even closer to Mickey’s earlier mark of 52 set in 1956. Beltran will also knock in 147 RBIs, 17 more than Mantle’s career high of 130, notched in 1956, a banner year for Mantle. Carlos’ 22 stolen bases this year will also pass Mantle’s best year, 1959, when Mantle stole 21. In other categories, Beltran will fall short, to be expected in this type of comparison. Mantle was a triples hitter, who had a .298 lifetime batting average. Beltran will never touch Mantle’s .705 slugging percentage set in 1956 or his career high .365 batting average set in 1957, (we can let Jeter worry about that) but I hope this most rigorous comparison will make Beltran’s critics go “Hmmm!”
There are many ways and means by which we can compare two players in different eras, none of them equally fair to both players.
One way to make a fair comparison between Mantle and Beltran is to extend Beltran’s numbers out to 162 games, as an accepted standard of comparison of all players used by Major League Baseball. To do this for Carlos you multiply each current figure by 1.74.
This would give Beltran 603 at bats, 140 runs scored, 170 (and a half) hits, 42 doubles, no triples, 55 (and a half) homers, 163 (and a half) RBIs, 160 walks versus 181 strikeouts. He would then have 24 stolen bases, and would have been caught stealing 5 times. He would have 379 total bases. The on base, slugging and batting percentages would be the same.
We won’t see these numbers this year, because Beltran won’t play any where near 162 games, and of course they compare unfairly with any given year by Mantle (note Carlos exceeding Mantle’s 54 homer mark) because M never suited up 162 times in a season, but we can compare this to the 162 game season averages published for Mickey Mantle.
Now of course, all of us would like to compare our best day at work to our boss’ worst day at work, or even his or her average day. Most of us would come out looking mighty spiffy and looking for a raise. But it does give us a standard of comparison for the good day at work that Carlos has been having lately. If Mantle is the boss of all centerfielders, Beltran is a very promising employee indeed.
Per every 162 games, (over his 18 year career) Mantle had 547 at bats, (56 less than Beltran) scored 113 runs, (27 less than Beltran) with 163 hits, (7 less than Beltran) 23 doubles, (19 less than Beltran) 5 triples, (5 more than Beltran) and 36 home runs,(14 less than Beltran) and driving in 102 runs (61 less runs than Beltran). In that number of games he’d average 10 stolen bases (14 less than Beltran), caught stealing only 3 times (same as Beltran). He’d earn 117 bases on balls, (43 less than Beltran) with 115 strike outs (66 less;Mickey had a quick eye), for a .298 batting average (16 points higher than Beltran. This last stat is obviously a big factor for those ((Yankee fans))who will wish to revere Mantle as a higher order of being). His on base percentage would be .421, (36 points higher than Beltran’s.385) his slugging would be .557 (71 points lower than Beltran’s 628) with 304 total bases, 75 lower than Beltran’s 379. This is perhaps the fairest comparison we can make, but Beltran still comes out ahead, based on the first half of Beltran’s season.
Here’s another way to compare the two: Let’s take 1956, one of Mantle’s best years, in fact the year he broke away from the pack and distinguished himself as a future Hall of Famer, and compare it to Beltran’s projected year.
In the year 1956, Mickey Mantle played in 150 games (5 more than Beltran in 2006) he came to the plate 533 times (8 less than Beltran will) he scored 132 runs (only 6 more than Beltran) bashed 188 hits (35 more than Beltran) with 22 doubles (Beltran will hit 37, 15 more!) five triples (5 more than Beltran) and 52 homers (Beltran will come darn close with 50) In that year, Mantle knocked in 130 runs (Beltran will beat that mark by 17, with 147) and stole 10 bases, and was caught only once. (Beltran will steal 22 bases, 12 better, but will be caught 5 times) Mantle had 112 walks (20 more than Beltran) and only 99 strikeouts (but only 5 less than Beltran). That year, Mantle hit .353, a mark Beltran will never touch, and had a career-high slugging percentage of .705, which is not totally out of reach for Mr. B, but is still a daunting challenge and something to shoot for. Mantle’s 376 total bases in 1956 exceeds Beltran’s 335 by 41, using this system.
As you can see, Beltran’s season so far compares favorably with Mantle’s average year at the plate. But fielding percentages are just as important. Mantle had a lifetime fielding average in center of .982, a very respectable figure, but Beltran’s current 2006 figure is much better, .992!
But of course its too early to put Beltran in the Hall of Fame yet. He’s going to need to match Mantle’s statistical power for at least 18 seasons to put up the remarkable total figures that make Mantle one of the all-time greats of sports history. But he’s off to a fine start. Does anyone know the Spanish word for D-Y-N-A-S-T-Y?
“Move Him Up to a Higher League”A Comparison of Jose Reyes in 2001 and Now
Evan Pritchard copyright © 2006
July 29th, 2006
Gary Cohen once said of St. Louis star Albert Pujols, “He’s ready to move up to a higher league. The problem is, he’s already in the majors.” There are times when you could say that about Jose Reyes, who occasionally leads the major leagues in seven or so major offensive categories. This is nothing new for Reyes, who had good numbers in the minor leagues, good enough to “move up to a higher league,” which the Mets did three times.
Jose Reyes was born in 1983, and was signed in 1999 as an undrafted free agent, so when he played for the Kingsport, Tennessee Mets Rookie Team, in the Appalachian League in the year 2000, he was only 17. He only played for part of a season. The following year, 2001 he was 18 and he played for the Columbia, South Carolina “Capitol City SAL league, Single A Mets ballclub. He played 108 games that season, slightly more than the number he has already played for the Mets this year. It makes for an interesting comparison.
That year he played in 108 games, with 407 at bats. He scored 71 runs, banged out 125 hits, and bashed 22 doubles. He ran out 15 triples and thwacked 5 home runs. He had 48 runs batted in, and maintained a .307 average, with a .337 on base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage to boot. He stole 30 bases and was caught stealing 10 times. He struck out 71 times against only 18 bases on balls. He was moved up the following year, 2002, to A+ ball, then AA the same year, and ended up with the Binghamton Mets. Between the two teams he stole a total of 58 bases, still only 19 years old. The following year, 2003, he was moved up to Norfolk for only 42 games, and then joined the mothership for a very good rookie year. He was twenty years old.
Compare that pivotal year at Columbia with this year so far: He has played in 10 less games so far (98 games) and already has had 17 more plate appearances (424 plate appearances,) scoring 12 more runs (83 runs), with two less hits (123 hits), two less doubles (20), three less triples (12) and four more homers (9 ). He has four less runs batted in (44) and has stolen 13 more bases (43) and has been caught stealing one more time (11). He has an on base percentage that is ten points higher (.347), his slugging percentage is 24 points lower (.458) and his batting average is currently 17 points lower (.290) but at times has almost equaled the .307 he hit back in A ball. He has twice as many walks (36 bases on balls)compared to 18 less strikeouts (53) which is a recent improvement.
When he has played ten more games this year we can make an even closer comparison, as the games played will be equal, but it looks to me like he’ll get those two missing hits by Tuesday, the two missing doubles and four missing rbis by Thursday, and the three missing triples, well, who knows? Very soon. As to getting his average up to .307? Remember, he’s only 23. When he hits that mark, it will be time to move him up to a higher league, the one where Albert Pujols can’t get a hit and DiMaggio is just your average Joe.
The Birth of the Man Destined to Lead the New York Mets to the 2006 World Series Championship,
A Somewhat True Story
Copyright © 2006 by Evan Pritchard for Amazine
July 29th, 2006
The day was October 12th, 1969, a sunny Sunday afternoon. The place was lovely Manati, in northwest Puerto Rico, where small huts scattered amid the sands were shaded by gently swaying palm trees. It was as far away from Roosevelt Avenue, Queens as one could travel, in a state of mind. Amid humble, not-quite manger-like surroundings, Jose Valentin’s parents to be were awaiting the birth of their new baby. Mrs. Valentin lay in the bed, in labor, while her nervous husband helped the midwives with their chores. The proud papa was a baseball fan, and hoped for a boy he could play pepper with in five years. He would get much more than he bargained for….
The following is historical fiction, a scholarly reconstruction of the mystical events of the next few hours of October 12, 1969, moments that would change the course of history for baseball, and for mankind. (This article, a salute to Jose Valentin and to the Met-fantasy movie Frequency, is respectfully posted pending comments from Jose Valetin’s family)
Dad looked at his watch. Two PM. He had already missed the first hour of the World Series game, the Mets versus the Orioles. He had friends in New York City, and, like everyone else in the world, was aware of the Mets unlikely climb to the top of the NL East, and had been following the NL playoffs against the Braves on the radio. Now the Orioles had won the first game of the fall classic, and the Mets were at the disadvantage. Too nervous to simply sit and watch the birthing, with his wife’s permission, the expecting father switched on a beat up AM radio to listen to the local feed from NBC radio’s Puerto Rican affiliates. The description of the game did not cure his nerves.
It was the top of the fourth inning. No score. It was an intense pitching duel between Mets’ Jerry Koosman and Oriole ace Dave McNally, both future Hall of Famers. The visiting Mets were coming to bat. The leadoff hitter in the inning, Donn Clendenon, hit a solo home run, and the Mets took the lead. It was only the second run in Mets World Series history, and put them ahead for the first time. The man, weary from hours of bedside manners and hand holding, gave a little “Let’s Go Mets!” cheer until the midwives succinctly shushed him.
The pitching duel continued and Baltimore was not able to tie it up against Koosman until the bottom of the seventh. Now it was the top of the eighth, one to one. If the Mets fell two games behind, it would be tough to recover. The Orioles had one of the best pitching foursomes in history, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, (all 20 game winners) and **** Hall, and one of the best quartet of sluggers to date; Frank and Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell and Curt Blefary. The Mets had four great pitchers, but one of the lowest team batting averages in World Series history. The situation in Baltimore was tense. Koosman was pitching a two hitter, but McNally was looking masterful as well. The light-hitting Al Weis, a career .238 hitter, had gotten one hit and an intentional base on balls so far. The eighth inning passed without a run scoring. It was still tied.
Señora Valentin was heavy in labor now, working her breath with the help of the midwives. The baby would come out any second. Dave McNally was tired, too, from his own labors, but stayed in to go the distance.
In the top of the ninth, Ed Charles and Jerry Grote got on base for the Mets, and the usually faint-hearted eighth-spot hitting second baseman Al Weis got an RBI single that scored what was to be the historic winning run, and it put the Mets ahead 2-1. Koosman was taken out for a pinch hitter, and Taylor came in to save the lead, and the Mets won their first World Series game to tie the series. Some point to that run as a turning point in baseball history.
It was at this joyous moment (or perhaps within a few hours) that the infant Jose Valentin was born into this world. “It’s a BOY!” senior Valentin shouted with pride. “He will be a ball player!” He hugged his wife, and soon was holding the baby in a blue blanket. “Let’s call him Jose!”
One of the midwives, an ancient and wise woman apparently of Taino extraction, with a mysterious look in her eyes, turned to Jose’s father and said in a husky voice that seemed to come from the world beyond, “It’s a SIGN! The radio! The base hit! Victory! Your son is going to be a great baseball player in USA with Los Mets! He will lead them to victory in a distant World Series, at a time when the world will be in turmoil and distress. He will lead them to a promised land, free of steroids.”
“What’s a steroid?” the new father asked.
“Never mind! This boy, whom you have named Jose, Jose Valentin, will follow in Al Weis’ footsteps! He shall be a switch-hitting second baseman for the White Sox, who will be traded to the Mets in an off year. In his second year as a Met, although starting out as a platooned player like Weis, he will lead them to World Series victory. This is why he was born at this moment. To show us his future. He will bring a boon to our village.”
”How do I know that these things you say are true?” the incredulous father asked with wonder.
She answered, “If what I am saying is true, the Mets will miraculously defeat the Orioles in four straight games, and in that last game, Al Weiss will hit an important home run at Shea, even though he has never hit one in a home game in his life before. That home run will fix the term “Miracle Mets’ in the minds of baseball fans forever.”
“Al Weiss? I find that hard to believe!” the father stated soberly.
“You GOTTA BELIEVE! In fact, Señor Weiss will hit .455 for the series!”
“Wait a minute? You expect me to believe that against Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and Hall that a .215 hitter will bat almost .500? No way Jose!”
“Deba Creer” (You Gotta Believe!) she exclaimed. “It will be a sign to you. Yes!” she said, suddenly dropping her accent for one more appropriate for Queens. “During that last game, you will doubt my words, as the Orioles will go ahead three-zip. But Cleon Jones will dispute a hit-by-pitch call by showing the ump the shoe polish on the ball. He will be awarded the base, and then Donn Clendenon will take McNally deep for two runs. That’ll bring the score to 3 to 2, and then Al Weiss will tie it with the long ball. Then you will know the truth about your son’s future.” The old woman left the room uttering a Spanish phrase meaning, “Mark my words!”
Good field-no hit Al Weiss was to go on to lead the Mets to victory in the World Series with an amazing .455 batting average. Cleon Jones got his famous shoe-polish free base, and was knocked in my Donn Clendenon. The Al Weiss home run off McNally did indeed tie the 5th game at 3-3, leading to victory and the Series Championship. In the words of George Burns playing God (in Oh God!) His greatest miracle was the 1969 Mets; before that you have to go back to the Red Sea.
The amazed father bought his son a second baseman’s glove and took good care of it until the boy was old enough to wield its power. The boy did become a great second baseman for Chicago,
but he was no light hitter. He hit 25 homers for them in 2000, 28 in 2001, 25 in 2002, 28 in 2003 and 30 in 2004. During that time he bought the Santurce Crabbers baseball team of the Puerto Rican Winter League and moved them to his small and impoverished home town of Manati, in the far northwest corner of Puerto Rico at the urging of the town mayor. Valentin changed the name of the team to the Athenians, and the team went on to break league attendance records, another minor miracle, thanks in part to Valentin electing to play second for his own team, and more recenlty amid rumors that Beltran might join him. It helped bring prosperity to the village. Last winter, the Athenians won their division title and made it into the playoffs.
Valentin was traded to the Mets in 2005 and had an off year as the Mets dallied around .500. He played sporadically behind Kaz Matsui in 2006. Around June 2nd of this year, Kaz Matsui was finally benched and Valentin took over, going 6 for 13 with two homers in the first few days. He has never looked back.
This is the time. This is the team. We must cheer our Mets to World Series victory so that eighth-spot hitter Jose Valentin can fulfill his destiny as a Met, and fill the shoes of Al Weiss. The opposing team will not be the Orioles this time, but may in fact be his own former teammates, the Chicago White Sox.
Some of the facts in the above story are true. Jose Valentin was born the day of Al Weiss’ game-winning single, in Puerto Rico, where he still lives. The baseball stuff is true. The rest is, shall we say a “historical reconstruction.” Is that part true? Well, as they say in Queens, “You gotta believe.”
NOTE: The author met with Ron Swoboda on September 17th, 2005, and discussed his role as advisor in the creation of the Met-Fantasy movie Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid, a film that used actual footage from the 1969 World Series. In that story, a man from the future proves his bizarre claim by foretelling the improbable events of the 1969 series. His prediction of the Cleon Jones shoe-polish incident played a part in solving an inter-dimensional murder mystery. Ron Swoboda and the author talked at length about Swoboda’s good friend Donn Clendenon, whose three homers did so much to win the contest and win himself an MVP. A few moments later, it was announced on the radio that Donn Clendenon had passed away. This incident only increased the author’s interest in the movie Frequency, in the 1969 Mets, and opened his mind further to chronicalling the supernatural where the Mets are concerned. Donn’s published book “Miracle in New York,” discusses Clendenon’s insider view of the amazing events and coincidences of that miraculous season.
The famous rooftop stands across the street from Wrigley Field show both kind of Ks in this game. The backwards K is street talk for “caught looking.” The Mets were caught looking as the Cubs came from behind after a great pitcher’s duel.
Copyright c 2006 Evan Pritchard
July 15th, 2006
The entire Amazine staff (consisting of two reasonably attractive but slightly out of shape males) attended the Zambrano v Glavine trial at Wrigley today in order to form their own independent opinion. We got in line at 8 in the morning just to get standing room tickets in the gallery. It was a carefully argued duel of wits between two great baseball minds; Tom Glavine who led the league in wins and Carl Zambrano who led the league in strikeouts, both of them Cy Young candidates. The two exchanged rapid repartees and delivered powerful rhetorical spheroid statements that hit home time and time again in the careful judgement of the umpire for over an hour. Zambrano had a no hitter going into the fifth, matched by Glavine’s sort-of no hitter, also into the fifth, just one line drive through the box by the first defense witness, which almost passed for an error as it touched Glavine’s velvet glove before leaving its footprint on the soil behind second base. Umpires at the scene described it as a base hit, considering the speed it was driven at the time of the incident.
New York’s most celebrated Public Defenders broke through the stalemate and scored two in the sixth. Valentin started off with a triple to right, which broke up Zambrano’s no-hitter. LoDuca grounded out to short, then Beltran walked, then Delgado singled to right to drive in the first run of the game, breaking up the shutout. Wright struck out then Floyd walked then Chavez singled in the second run. Woodward got to three and two, two out, bases loaded, but could not produce admissible evidence, grounding to second. Still, it looked good for our side.
Just when our jury was about to find the Mets worthy of victory, in the bottom of the sixth, notorious members of the Chicago baseball family known as The Cubbies burst into the venerable courthouse located at 1060 West Addison and started shooting up the place, denting the ivy covered back walls of Wrigley with their cannon shots. Many ERAs were destroyed, including that previously stainless ERA belonging to young Henry Owens, a stranger to adversity who had not given up a run before in his major league life, not to mention that relatively pristine ERA belonging to Pedro Feliciano. Chad Bradford made some underhanded remarks and was shot down as well. It was a bloodbath of bad luck and bad hops. This was ironic because Bill Buckner, former batting champ for the Cubs, threw out the first pitch of the game. He is the Baseball demi-god associated strange errors. When the smoke cleared it was 8-2 and the verdict fell in favor of the Cubs. The Mets were led off the field in the emotional equivalent of shackles and leg irons.
Chavez started off that horrid sixth by losing a fly ball in the sun, a three base error, and then a long line of singles followed that drove starter Glavine from the mound in a tie game. The chickens came home to roost and a third run was credited to Glavine as well, a run which the Mets never matched, and so Glavine’s goose was cooked. At the end of the day, he lost the decision. Tom rarely loses a case, in fact it was the first defeat for Glavine since early May. The Cubs’ machinegun-like massacre of singles continued into the eighth inning leaving no one unscarred, and the verdict of most Mets fans was, “it got ugly.”
Look for updates in about two weeks with photos from the event. One fan modeled his tee shirt for us, one which bore a photo commemorating Michael Barrett’s famous punch of another catcher’s face; the caption read “Who says the Cubs can’t hit?” The Cubs have had a lot of trouble scoring runs this year, (311 until today, matched in ribbies by Mets starting batters 1 through 6, in fact Mets part-time bench jockey Valentin would be third in rbis for the Cubs if he played for Chicago) but they certainly remembered how to score runs in this game, after the fifth inning that is, and they came up winners. Ironic, because Wrigley Field has probably never seen so many Mets supporters at one time as at that contest. But justice is not democratic, but is as they say, blind as a bat. Nonetheless, Wrigley shall continue to be a true Temple of Baseball in our estmiation, and we shall hold malice towards none from the north end. The White Sox however, should watch out in October. We can match Ozzie G *** for *** when New York push comes to Chicago shove in a possible World Series confrontation.
July 15th, 2006
It has been many decades since a New York team has had three players with 20 or more homers by the All Star break. The Minnesota Twins had “The Fearsome Foursome” for a while, topped by Harmon Killebrew, but this year’s combination of Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Carlos Delgado promises to break some world records for three players in the same lineup at the same time. In fact, the three of them in combination already have 67 homers, 200 rbis, and surprisingly, 23 stolen bases so far this year. They also have 264 hits. It is like having three cleanup hitters. This group effort is especially effective following Jose Reyes in the lineup, who is not part of the Threesome, but is an Army of One to himself, leading the NL in seven major offensive categories, not including homers.
Wow. I could learn a lot here!Zoe
And Mets fans are the #1 most devoted!
Best wishes for the second half, sir.
Look forward to your expose on Yankees/Red Sox…I’m in the middle of Dodgers/Giants one myself. Good luck to you.
By the way I belive Oh’s an excellent athlete but he didn’t always face great pitching…
Great blog… The kid’s unbelievable and I wouldn’t put any of those things passed him. (well, maybe just the Reyes thing lol). http://www.yagottabelieve.mlblogs.com/
July 14th, 2006 Mets Beat Cubs
Amazine editor Evan Pritchard was present at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field on Friday July 14th to hand out free passes to Amazine (which in fact is always free) to those wearing Mets apparel to the game, and to watch former Cub pitcher Steve Traschel beat the veteran Greg Maddox, by a score of 6 to 3 before a daytime crowd of 40,782.
Daytime games are a great tradition at 1060 West Addison, otherwise known as Wrigley Field, an event which Chicagoans call “The 1:20 business meeting,” for which they often must urgently leave work. It is also said that Chicago has more per capita dead grandmothers than any other city in America, given the number of funerals scheduled for 1:20 PM especially in the city’s north end, clustering inexplicably around Cubs day game events. Day games, hot dogs, and dead grandmothers…its a great American tradition.
The atmosphere surrounding the game was intense, as many thousdans of Mets fans were there to catch the Mets fever up close. One could see a number of Mets/Cubs couples or pals in pairs attending the game, one rooting loudly for the Cubs, one for the Mets. One would think that Queens was just across the Lake, and that a border had been only recently drawn between the two cities. In fact the drive took me a couple of days. I also saw some verbal crossing of swords between Mets and Cubs fans, alot of which started when a gang of seven Mets fans found a gang of seven Cubs fans sitting in their seats by accident during the first inning. The Mets fans said, “Whadda ya think this is? Chicago?” “Aint this QUEENS?”
That started a series of repartees that lasted the rest of the rainy afternoon. I heard one loud Mets fan (who would often request loudly that Cubs players “siddown” after each out) ask a Cubs fan “Why do you suggest that my beloved Mets ****? In what way do they ****?” The Cubs fan replied, quite patiently, “This is my home! The Cubs are my team, and you are an intruder. I am defending my team.” The other fan, a true New Yorker with gold chain and a beefy anatomy, said “Did I ever actually say the Cubs ****? I did not say those words.”
(“But you were thinking it!” I could hear the Cubs fan thinking at 140 decibles.) The Cubs fan then dragged Carlos Delgado into the conversation, “Carlos, YOU ****!” Carlos did not comment , but sat down after striking out, perhaps in reference to the earlier admonition.
David Wright’s name was on everyone’s lips, as he had just clouted 16 big ones in the first round of the Home Run Derby then four more as a finalist, on Monday in Pittsburgh, and then one more in the All Star Game on Tuesday. On Wednesday he was on David Letterman in New York, and Thursday had the day off. He told Letterman that he was very very busy these days. When asked “So you lead the division by 12 games, is that because the Mets are that good, or is it just a weak division?” He closed his eyes and smiled for a long time then said, “We have a pretty strong team this year!”
Now it was Friday, and Mr.Wright was in Chicago and his name was written across not only the back of his uniform, but the backs of hundreds of uniforms, as many of his fans crowded the corner of Addison and Clark–all trying to get tickets. They were not disappointed as Wright got a hit and an rbi to bring his total to 75, and then made a spectacular circus catch of a ground ball in the hole created by Reyes’ absence from the shortstop position. He fell on the ball after a long verticle “man shot out of the cannon” play then spun clockwise and threw the runner out at first.
Some of the Chicago signage was interesting.
A group of fans wore tee shirts that looked like Mets shirts, on the front was written, “Got Pedro Feliciano?” On the back was added, “The **** you do.” This may have been in reference to the fact that Mets pitcher PedroFeliciano, has an ERA of 2.34.
A local bar was topped by a large marquis that said “We really are a strong second half team. “ The Cubs started the post-All Star 2006 season at 34-54, but after a rain delay and some weak hitting, found themselves at 55 losses. If they are a second half team, they need to find that identity within themselves really soon. Last week’s three wins could soon be a memory if they don’t awaken from hibernation.
“Cardinals can just take it up their Pujols” was a tee shirt seen on the street outside, at the corner of Addison and Clark. This was a reference to Central Division rival St. Louis Cardinals and their star first baseman, who is leading the league in homers and rbis. The grammar of the sentence may be slightly odd, but it obviously refers to the fact that the Cardinals plan to take up further discussions with the first baseman concerning an extension of his contract.
Towards the end of the contest, a six year old boy walked around the stands holding a hand lettered sign which said, “Dusty, We Have To Talik.” This was probably in reference to Dusty Baker, the beleaguered manager for Chicago, a town that at one point in its history could have been referred to correctly as an “Ursocracy,” (or Arthocracy, a society led by bears/cubs) but no longer. The Cubbies fell on hard times this spring, as had their winter counterparts, the Chicago Bears. There is even talk of trading Greg Maddox. The “we have to talk” was probably a reference to a phrase by a popular talk show host. It conveys an element of concern.
Reminders of the greatness of ancient Chicagoan civilizations was near at hand; on each foul pole were two player flags, looking as if they were shreds of uniforms hanging out to dry, thier numbers long since retired to the Hall of Fame. They honored Cubs number 14 Ernie Banks, Number 10 Ron Santo, Number 23 Ryan Sandberg, and number 26 Billy Williams. On this particular day, they might as well have invoked help from the ancient Illinois Confederacy of Algonquins, and the Sac and Fox, great warriors of the windy city before the white (and in this case Polish)man entered the scene, who were in fact remnants of a great Bear Cult society that had prospered thousands of years earlier.
Suzette, who owns the store Alice and Oz on Clark Street, was wearing a New York jacket, but also Cubs Ears and a Cubs cap and holding forth on the sidewalk, selling Cubs regalia to the people of the Windy City as they lined up for tickets. Suzette has lived both in New York City and in Chicago, but roots for the Cubs now. She said, “The Cubs aren’t dong that well this year, are they?” No but North Enders still come out in numbers to support their team, partly because they are NOT the White Sox.
Several Cubs fans I spoke to reminded me of 1969 when the Cubs had a shot at the pennant, but were toppled by the upstart Mets. They never forgot that. In fact, as I was walking down Addison from the stadium wearing my Mets hat, a Chicago driver with Illinois plates veered over into a foot deep puddle of water at the foot of the sidewalk where I stood and increased speed, and was highly successful in creating a jet of water about head high, just to remind me of that Amazin’ August back in 1969, in which the Cubs domination (over the NL) crumbled like the Minoan Civilization did back in 1456 BC, due to the volcanic rise the Mets.
The Mets got off to an early 1-0 lead, on a double by Valentin, and some baserunning, but the Cubs came back with 2 in the bottom of the first. The Mets scored 4 in the fourth (with and rbi from Cliff Floyd). Just as the fifth inning ended, there was a great cloudburst and the mud jockeys in their scarlet suits ran out to cover the field for an hour. I conversed with the former head of the Wrigley vending crew Rod Gentile, and signed him to a zero year contract for zero dollars to write for Amazine. Then the rain ended and the Mets were thoughtful enough to give us one more insurance run in the 7th on a much debated triple by Woodward that may have been a home run. That brought the score to 6-2. Wagner came in to close and get a save, but gave up a run in the process with a double to Barrett, the Cubs hot hitting catcher. A force at second to end the game, and then the Cubs as a team, did in fact “siddown.” To the entire section of expatriot Mets fans that had been yelling LETS GO METS all day, it was cause for celebration.
SUMMER OF THE METS
copypright c 2006 Evan Pritchard
The Mets just climbed back into the .600 club with the Red Sox, Tigers and White Sox, and are ready for a hot hitting July. They are currently 51-34 and are 12 and a half games ahead of the Phillies.
1. Mets have the best record in the NL
Jose Reyes is currently leading the NL with 74 runs, also leading the NL with 110 hits.
Reyes is leading the NL with 12 triples, and in stolen bases with 39.
Tom Glavine has the most wins in the NL with 11.
2. Mets have the second best record on the road in the major leagues, and have the 2nd most homers on the road with 56.
3. Wright is 3rd in hits in the NL with 104
The Mets have the 3rd best home game ERA (3.95), and 3rd most strikeouts pitched at home with 311.
The Mets are 3rd in the NL in home runs hit at 53.
4. Mets have the 4th best record in baseball.
5. Wright is currently 5th in rbis in the NL with 70
Martinez is 5th in NL in strikeouts at 111
6. Billy Wagner is 6th in saves with 17
7. David Wright is currently hitting .322, 7th in the NL
Beltran is 7th in rbis in the NL with 65, and 7th in homers with 24
8. Beltran is 8th in runs with 61