Tag Archives: New York Mets

Done With Cooperstown and Hall of Fame Shenanigans

12 Dec

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

 

Gil Hodges let the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1969.

Gil Hodges let the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1969.

The Baseball Hall of Fame lost a friend on Monday. Thanks to its arrogant, shortsighted vision, it won’t miss me or the many thousands who were stunned by another goose egg turned in by this year’s Golden Era Committee vote. But then the Hall never did get it right.

No one gets 100 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America vote? A joke. But no one on a strong ballot of nine players and one executive (Bob Howsam) gets even 75 percent? Far worse and thus my decision to never again justify the Baseball Hall of Fame’s existence by entering its doors.

In particular, there is no joy in Mudville, where Gil Hodges has been emphatically shut out (receiving three or fewer votes of the 12 required), quite possibly forever, by a committee that seems to be applying 21st Century standards to a 20th Century icon.

You remember Hodges, right? The manager of arguably the most remarkable turnaround in the history of the game, the 1969 New York Mets?

As a Brooklyn Dodger, Hodges was, at one point,  late in his career 10th all-time in homers (370), with seven years of 100 or more and eight All-Star appearances. He was one of the rocks of the Boys of Summer, part of seven pennant winners and three world championships (two as a player and one as manager).

But what makes Hodges’ omission particularly galling is that he represents everything in terms of character that baseball claims to be about, while far transcending the numbers you might find in a media guide or on a website.

Hodges was a World War II hero, who lost two of his formative years to the game. At the time of his service (1944 and 1945), he was 19 years old and had already played in one game for Brooklyn in 1943.

After not stepping on the field for some 30 months because he was in the Pacific serving his country, he had to start all over again in 1946 and by the next year was stuck in a situation where the Dodgers (who had gone on with life while he was away) had to figure out what to do with him. So by the time he became a regular in 1948, he lost arguably 1,000 plate appearances and the kind of counting statistics that Veterans Committee members appear determined to use to keep him out of Cooperstown.

‘Determined’ is the operative word here given the great injustice that befell Hodges in the early 1990s when committee chairman Ted Williams disallowed a 12th vote by Roy Campanella on the basis that Campy was sick and not present at the committee meeting.

With Campanella’s vote, Hodges was a Hall of Famer, earning the required 12 of 16 votes. Without it, Hodges was left with 11 of 15 votes or just shy of inclusion (a similar predicament to Tony Oliva and Dick Allen yesterday, only they didn’t have any votes nullified).

Add that to the highest number of votes ever received by a player not voted into the Hall of Fame (over 1,000) and one has to wonder what Hodges did to antagonize people over the years.

One vote shy. And it appears as if the man who drove in the only two runs in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series will never get that vote.

How could a figure who received 50 percent or more of the BBWAA vote 11 times (of a possible 15 tries), not have his day in the sun, while so many who finished behind him eventually get included?

And it only gets worse if you look at his defensive legacy, which is greatly understated.
Hodges won three Gold Gloves at first base with the Dodgers at a point when baseball only awarded one for all of baseball (1957-59).

This was the beginning of the award and the twilight of Hodges being an elite player, which raises the question: How many Gold Gloves might he have won had the current rules of the award applied?

If we are going to punish the man for being part of the pre-steroid era (he has dropped to 75th all-time in homers in the last half-century), what is the other side of the coin?

Hodges became an elite first baseman defensively in 1949, when he led the National League in putouts, fielding percentage and double plays and was second in assists. He was first in at least one major defensive category six more times before the creation of the Gold Glove meaning he could have won as many as 10 Gold Gloves with at least a half dozen extremely likely.

Undeniably,  any conversation of the 10 greatest defensive first basemen of all-time must include Hodges. But technicality, rather than accomplishment, rules the argument against him.

Then again Hodges never was a master of timing.

He died two days before his 48th birthday, a year before a Mets team he largely made relevant won its second pennant under Yogi Berra. With Hodges as manager would the 1973 Mets have won a second world title? More importantly in this discussion, with Hodges in the public eye, might he have gotten those few extra votes to have made this a moot point?

Sadly, we will never know the answers to any of these questions and as the likelihood that Hodges is ever inducted begins to become extremely remote, we are left to ponder this: What good is a Hall of Fame without celebrating its game?

Every year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts a minimum number of candidates. The powers that be in that sport lock themselves in a room until they come out with at least four people (and usually more). They build on the legacy of the past, refresh our love for the game, all without cheapening the award. Included on that list are Veterans Committee choices
Baseball, long ago stunned by cronyism and possible over-induction of candidates, has swung far too wide in the other direction, not only applying new statistical analysis to keep older players out, but suspicion of wrongdoing (see steroids) to create a backlog of worthy candidates that cannot be rectified.

Dick Allen? Should have been in long ago. Tony Oliva, one of the great hitters of the 1960s and a three-time batting champion? Same thing. And don’t get me started on Luis Tiant (a four-time 20-game winner, who has the most career shutouts of any non-Hall of Famer) or Jim Kaat (winner of 283 games and a 16-time Gold Glover) or Ken Boyer.

Once the BBWAA fails (which it has often this decade by not resolving the steroid argument) and the Golden Era Committee fails (which it has done twice consecutively by applying more difficult standards than it ever has in the past) then we arrive at this sad epitaph for the Hall of Fame itself.

Any shrine too snobbish or indecisive to celebrate itself is not worthy of our recognition and even more sadly, not worthy of the game we call our National Pasttime.

Today, there is no joy in Mudville because Cooperstown itself has struck out.

2014 Royals Taking Their Place in Baseball’s History of Improbable Post Season Runs

17 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

The most natural inclination when the Kansas City Royals stunned the Baltimore Orioles in four straight to sweep the 2014 American League Championship Series was to draw comparisons to the 1969 Mets.

Inferior team wins. Said team catches lightning in a bottle, fueled by a bevy of incredible defensive plays. And yet it’s important to remember several pieces of data in the comparison beginning with the realization that the Mets didn’t sweep that series. The Orioles won Game 1 and one of the great what-ifs in baseball history is what might have happened had Baltimore won just one of the four games the Mets juggernaut snagged that week.

New York Mets outfielder makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

New York Mets outfielder Tommy Agee makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Would the Orioles, with Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar slated to go in games 6 and 7 at home, won the series in seven? Or would the Mets have won anyway with more magic from players like Tommie Agee, Donn Clendenon or Al Weis?

To that question we will never know the answer. But as remarkable as that week was, it wasn’t the standard for postseason sweeps, which ironically happened exactly 100 years ago. Since then we’ve had a bevy of great lightning-in-the-bottle stories this time of year and the 2014 Royals may not even rank near the top.

You decide.

1914 Boston Braves: Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s were a dynasty, fueled by great pitching and their $100,000 infield (yeah, that was a long time ago). They were heavy favorites against the Boston Braves, whose manager George ‘’Tweedy’’ Stallings is best remembered for wearing out the seat of his suit pants on the bench. The Braves were in last place on the Fourth of July and then proceeded to go 60-16 to not only win their first pennant, but do so in double digits.

That should have been a warning to pundits of a potential upset, but both the A’s and experts were stunned over four days as Hank Gowdy (an underrated catcher whose career lasted until 1930) hit .545.

1966 Orioles: Once upon a time the Orioles were on the other side of an incredible four-game sweep. This is often forgotten in history since Baltimore went on to win three pennants and another world title only a few years later with much of the same cast. But understand the rep of the 1966 Dodgers: led by 27-game winner Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers were defending champs and had won their third pennant in four years. The Orioles were making their first postseason appearance. But paced by Moe Drabowsky’s amazing relief performance in Game 1, the Dodgers’ offense was shut down, never to reawaken in the most stunning display of four-game pitching in World Series history.

1980  Kansas City Royals: The 1980 Yankees won more regular-season games (103) than either the 1977 or 1978 teams that won it all. Both teams defeated the Royals en route to the crown and the Bombers had a run going of three consecutive postseason series victories over KC. So this was the ultimate grudge match. With homefield advantage, the Yanks were leading at home in Game 3 until George Brett’s long homer off Goose Gossage cemented the three-game sweep.

The 1990 Cincinnati Reds: Lest we forget. The 1988-1990 A’s were very close to being recognized as one of the great dynasties of the last 30 years. But they ran into a hot Dodger team in 1988 and even hotter Cincinnati team two years later. Reds pitchers held the Bash Brothers to only eight runs in four games, but the MVP was Billy Hatcher, whose .750 mark represents one of the great short-series hot streaks in postseason history.

2014 Royals: KC trailed 7-3 late in the wild-card playoff before stunning Oakland. Since that point, they have hardly trailed in their first postseason appearance in 29 years. They wiped out a veteran Angels team, but the nature of their four-game sweep over the Orioles was invigorating and incredible: Baltimore hit well in two games (games 1 and 2), but not enough.

Then it pitched well in the next two, but again it wasn’t enough as the Royals won two games by two runs and two others by one each. Lorenzo Cain was the Royals series MVP, but collectively KC played perhaps the best series defense since the 1969 Mets, using several diving or unlikely catches to shut down every potential Baltimore rally. Can the Royals sustain this momentum into the World Series? A national bandwagon of underdog lovers await in what is becoming one of the great October sagas in recent years.

Phillies Are Not Even Close to Being Contenders

3 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Roberto Hernandez had a rough night in an 11-2 loss to the Mets.

Roberto Hernandez had a rough night in an 11-2 loss to the Mets.

PHILADELPHIA—You would like to think that because it’s only June that there is plenty of time for the last-place Phillies, who are now six and one-half games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, to right their ship and back into contention.

Considering that the Phillies (24-31) lost four out of five games to a New York Mets squad that is quite frankly just as bad as they are, you gotta have a lot of faith to think the Phils can turn it around. I mean a whole lot of faith to believe this team can get it together.

“We have to get better at everything. That’s the whole goal,” said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley in a rare post-game interview with reporters. “I don’t think there’s any one thing missing. We have to hit better and we have to play better defense.”

Looking at the way they are playing at this point in the season, it might be an accomplishment if they can just get to .500. The playoffs, even in the era of two wildcard teams, are way out of the question. The July 31st trade deadline is looking more and more like a fire sale.

Monday’s 11-2 loss to the Mets was a combination of bad pitching, a lack of offense, poor defense and a horrific night by the bullpen. It was a microcosm of a bad season by a lackluster team.

“I would say that we’ve showed signs of fundamental baseball,” said manager Ryne Sandberg. “We’ve played better defense than we did in this series. It’s just putting together the pitching, the defense, executing throughout the game and having some timely hits and getting some better run support. Putting it all together or more parts of the game together.”

The starting pitching, which has had some good moments this season, fell completely apart in the series finale against the Mets. Starter pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who has pitched well in his starts throughout the season, had a bad night or more accurately one bad inning.

For the game, Hernandez (2-2) gave up five runs, four came in the sixth inning when the Mets sent 10 men to the plate a pair of RBI doubles by David Wright and Willmer Flores put the Phillies in a 5-0 hole from which they never recovered.

The Phillies had a chance to minimize the damage in that inning when Mets first baseman Lucas Duda hit a routine ground ball to Utley who mishandled a ball that should have led to an inning-ending double-play. Instead, it loaded the bases and Flores got the double to break the game open.

On offense, the Phillies scored their runs on an RBI groundout by Ryan Howard that scored Cesar Hernandez in the sixth and a wild pitch by Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia that scored centerfielder Ben Revere from third in the eighth.

In both of those innings, the Phillies had the first two men reach with nobody out and got just two runs out of it. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. If there is anything that’s been consistent about this team is its futility with runners in scoring position.

The bullpen, which came into the game with a 1.60 earned run average since May 22, gave up six runs in the ninth inning, including a grand-slam home run to Flores, who had not hit a home run all year for the Mets. That sent the fans, some of whom were doing Eagles and Flyers chants, rushing to the exits.

The Phllies finished the homestand with just four wins in 11 games. They are 12-19 at home for the season. Teams that contend don’t struggle at home. The 2014 Phillies should never be confused with a team that is contending for anything.

When you look at their starting lineup, you have guys who are capable of hitting and yet they don’t do it on a consistent basis. Ryan Howard is either feast or famine. He was 8-for-45 during the homestand, but also had four home runs and 15 runs batted in.

You also have guys like Marlon Byrd, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, who are not having bad years individually. But they haven’t come through in clutch situations with any kind of consistency. Domonic Brown, who was an All-Star last season, is only hitting .206 with just four home runs and 27 runs batted in.

Yet, Sandberg believes his squad is still capable of being a good team that can put together some wins to get back in the pennant race.

“We showed better baseball than what we’ve played overall and I believe the core group is there,” Sandberg said.

 

Another Episode of Bad Baseball Theater in Phillies Extra-Inning Loss to the Mets

1 Jun
Cole Hamels had eight strikeouts and allowed just two runs in the Phillies He got no run support from the Phillies offense.

Cole Hamels had eight strikeouts and allowed just two runs in the Phillies loss to the Mets. He got no run support from the Phillies offense.

PHILADELPHIA—If the Phillies and New York Mets were true contenders for a division title or a National League pennant, the three extra-inning games between two teams would have been the top story on every national sports cable or website.

Instead, it has been a display of how woefully inconsistent both teams are and why they are in an “epic” fight for last place in the National League East. Both teams figured out ways to give the game to their opponent this weekend.

In the Phillies 4-3 loss to the Mets in 11 innings Sunday at Citizen’s Bank Park, it was that old combination of not enough of run support for starting pitcher Cole Hamels, bad base running, and the bullpen not keeping them in the game.

The Mets got the winning runs they needed in the top of the 11th on a two-run homer by first baseman Lucas Duda off Phillies right-handed reliever Phillippe Aumont that broke a 2-2 tie.

The Phillies closed the gap in their half of 11th with a solo-homer by Marlon Byrd, but would come no closer.

To be honest, you really can’t put this loss on the Phillies bullpen or the starting pitching because they did their respective parts to win the game in the innings prior to the 11th. The Phils offense or lack thereof was the real culprit of this latest loss.

The Phillies best opportunity to take the lead and possibly win it was in the seventh inning. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez reached on a bunt single and was moved to second a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Reid Brignac.

Domonic Brown singled to short left field, but Hernandez was held at third by third base coach Pete Mackinin. Meanwhile, Brown overran first base and got caught up in a run-down and was tagged out at second. Centerfielder Ben Revere grounded out to third to end the inning as 36, 039 fans rightfully booed them off the field.

“It really came to our best chance with a possible first and third situation,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “It was a chance to take the lead there. Brown overran the bag. He turned too wide.”

Brown said he made the right read on the ball coming in from center, but probably should have extended the rundown to give Hernandez a chance to score. After the game, he acknowledged that the team needs to work on the basic skills like base running to win.

“We got to be fundamentally sound to be a good ball club and we got to keep fighting, keep battling to do the little things on the baseball field,” Brown said.

Before Byrd’s homerun in the 11th, the Phillies only offense came from first baseman Ryan Howard who hit a two-run homer to center field off Mets starting pitcher Jonathan Niese  to give them a short-lived 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third. The Mets tied the game in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by centerfielder Curtis Granderson that scored Eric Campbell.

The offense’s inability to score wasted a solid effort by Cole Hamels, who fell to 1-4 on the season. In seven innings, Hamels allowed just two runs (one earned) on six hits with eight strikeouts and four walks.

“Cole was solid with his 125 pitches and pitched over errors in the sixth and seventh,” Sandberg said.

Hamels did not speak to reporters after the game. But can you blame him? He might have had a few choice words for his teammates lack of hitting. The Phillies lefthander pitched well enough to win the game before it even got to extra innings. In fact, Hamels helped his own cause on offense with a single.

Too bad Hamels teammates couldn’t put enough hits together to hits to help him out.

 

 

Phillies Edge Mets Thanks to Brignac’s Walk-off Single in the 14th

31 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Phillies Reid Brignac' gets a walkoff single to beat the Mets.

Phillies Reid Brignac’ gets a walkoff single to beat the Mets.

PHILADELPHIA— It took all of five hours and 23 minutes, but the Phillies came away with a 6-5 win in 14 innings late Friday night at Citizen’s Bank Park thanks to a walk-off RBI single by Reid Brignac that scored Marlon Byrd.

“I had a good feeling,” Brignac said. “I was trying to stay confident and trying to get a good pitch to hit. Luckily (Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia) threw me a cutter that caught a lot of plate and I didn’t miss it.”

On a long night where the winds started blowing from the outfield to home plate, the Phillies should probably thank Mother Nature for the shifting wind patterns. Byrd opened the 14th and hit what looked to be a routine flyball, but Mets rightfielder Chris Young misplayed it and the ball popped out of his glove.

“It looked like he took his eye off the ball at the last second,” Brignac said. “The wind kind of pushed back a bit. That was a play that Chris (Young) makes 10 out of 10 times. He just happened to drop it this one time. You don’t see that often.”

Byrd ended up on second and was moved to the third on a single by catcher Carlos Ruiz. Mejia intentionally walked Cesar Hernandez to load the bases for Brignac’s single. It was the second walk-off hit of his career. The last time he did it was back 2010 when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Rays against the New York Yankees when he hit a walk-off home run.

“That was a big swing, a couple hits,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “He finally got a strike in the zone. The bases loaded had something to do with that. The pitcher had to come at him.”

The Phillies were able to come away with the victory because of its often-criticized bullpen. The combination Jake Diekman, Mike Adams, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Mario Hollands, and Justin De Fratus, who got the win, held the Mets to just three hits.

“From a bullpen perspective it’s awesome to go out there and hang that many zeroes,” De Fratus said. “Hopefully, we build off of this and we keep it going.”

Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett had a strange night. Sometimes, he was pretty good and other times not so good. He had 11 strikeouts and six walks. He gave up five runs on five hits in seven innings. He threw 115 pitches.

“I’m not all over the place, I’m missing here and there,” Burnett said. “Six (walks) is a lot and they scored. I’m just going to keep grinding until find a way. It was one of the games in which got I stronger.”

Perhaps the biggest hero for the Phillies in this game was leftfielder Domonic Brown, who was 1-for-4 including a huge three-run homer in the fourth inning.

“I was some tough luck at time, but that’s baseball,” Brown said. “I think I’ve been doing a decent job with runners in scoring position. I’m just build off that. I played good tonight, but I’m just trying to keep it going.”

In the second inning, Burnett gave up two straight walks to leftfielder Curtis Granderson and right fielder Bobby Abreu. First baseman Lucas Duda doubled to score Granderson from second. Catcher Tony d’Arnaud grounded out to second to score Abreu from third. Shortstop Ruben Tejada singled to left to bring home Duda.

Burnett helped his own cause with a single to right to open the third inning. Rollins singled to right and Burnett went to third because Abreu over ran the ball and was charged with an error. Burnett scored on Chase Utley’s ground out to second to cut the Mets margin to 3-1.

The Phillies took a 4-3 lead in the fourth inning on a three-run homer to the right-field seats by Brown off Mets starting pitcher Rafael Montero, who allowed four runs on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings.

Just when it looked like the Phillies were about to take control, the Mets regained the lead at 5-4 on a two-out RBI double to right field by Abreu that score Juan Lagares, who reached on an infield single and Daniel Murphy who walked.

The Phillies evened things in the fifth on Brown’s RBI ground out to the shortstop to score Marlin Bryd, who walked to open the inning and went to third on a double by Ruiz.

It would be another three hours and nine innings before anyone scored again.

Wheeler and the Mets Stifle Frustrating Phillies

30 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Marlon Byrd's solo home run was the Phillies source of offense in the loss to the Mets. Webster Riddick.

Marlon Byrd’s solo home run was the Phillies source of offense in the loss to the Mets. Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—If there’s anything you can almost count on this season when you’re watching the Phillies, you never know which team is going to show up on a nightly basis.

After getting a walk-off home run by Ryan Howard to win on Wednesday, that other Phillies team showed up. You know the one that can’t seem to hit or score with runners in scoring position or commit a costly error. The team that stays near .500, but can’t seem quite get beyond it.

That above-mentioned Phillies team was on the short end of a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets Thursday night at Citizen’s Bank Park in front of 26, 688 fans, most of whom probably went home shaking their heads in utter bewilderment.

With the exception of Marlon Byrd’s solo home run in the seventh, the Phillies offense was basically nonexistent and they made Mets starting pitcher Zach Wheeler (2-5, 4.31 ERA) look like the second-coming of Roger Clemens or Tom Seaver.

Wheeler had nine strikeouts and zero walks while allowing the one run on four hits. The Phillies as a team struck out 15 times against Mets pitching.

“Tonight it looked like (Wheeler) had pretty good stuff. I would say that his record doesn’t indicate the kind of stuff that he had tonight,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We were just behind in the count the whole game. We couldn’t pull the trigger on his fast ball. He got better as the game wento on with his breaking stuff. Even the relievers had some pretty stuff.”

Meanwhile, Phillies rookie starting David Buchanan didn’t have a bad outing. It wasn’t all that great and wouldn’t have been that bad if he had some run support. In six and two-thirds innings, he allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits, two walks and a strikeout.

Buchanan showed some flashes of toughness in this game. In the second inning, he allowed the first three Mets—Lucas Duda, Chris Young, and shortstop Wilmer Flores to reach on singles.

But the sinker ball-throwing Phillies righthander got Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud to hit into a 6-4-3 double play while Duda crossed the plate to score the game’s first run to give the Mets a 1-0. He got Wheeler to ground out to short to end the inning.

“That’s a situation where you have to bear down and minimize the damage,” said Buchanan, who is now 1-1 with a 3.86 earned run average. “According to the laws of baseball, that guy’s on third is supposed to score anyway. To get out with one run is minimize the damage of what you’re supposed to do. We had a good double play up the middle and that’s all you can ask for.”

In the fourth inning, Young hit a two-run homer to left center give the Mets a 3-0 lead. New York’s final run of the game came in the fourth inning. After a single by Wheeler, Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares reached first when Phillies third baseman Cesar Hernandez short hopped the throw to the baseman.

After Daniel Murphy flied out to center, a slowly hit ground ball by David Wright landed in Hernandez’s at third.

But instead of stepping on the bag at third to get the force or just throwing the ball to first, Hernandez hesitated and threw the ball to second, but second base umpire Marvin Hudson said Lagares was safe and the bases were loaded. Buchanan walked Curtis Granderson, allowing Wheeler to score from third.

It was just another one of those head-scratching nights for a team that can’t seem to get out of the way of themselves.