Archive for the 'Tom Seaver' Category

The Rare Complete Game

Jason deGrom pitched the first complete game for the Mets since the last time he did so.  That was last season in Philadelphia on July 17 when he went nine in a 5-0 win.   In fact, that was the only complete game of the 2016 season for the Mets.

The complete game is a rare thing these days.  Pitchers are simply not trained to go nine innings.  Years ago, complete games were much more common.  Since and including the 2011 season, Mets starting pitchers have thrown 21 complete games including last evening’s gem by deGrom.  In 1969, Tom Seaver threw 18 complete games and number two starter Jerry Koosman threw 16.  That’s 34 complete games in one season from just too pitchers.  As a staff, the ’69 group threw 51 complete games.  Truly amazing and unheard of in this era of quality starts.  I want to emphasize I’m using Seaver and Koosman, two of the most remembered Mets of all time as an example.  Throwing lots of complete games was common throughout baseball, especially from the elite pitchers of the game.

Seaver tossed 231 complete games in his Hall of Fame career.  Cardinals and Phillies star Steve Carlton threw 254 complete games.  Greg Maddux whose career started in 1986 chucked 109 completes and Bartolo Colon who started his career 10 years after Maddux has thrown 36.  So you can see as the eras in baseball have progressed, so has the diminished number of complete games.  But why?

If I had a definitive answer, maybe I could write a thesis on the subject, correct the problem, and retire.  Not likely to happen.  One reason I believe is that there are more pitchers these days because there are more teams. There were only twenty-four teams in Seaver’s era vs. thirty teams today.   What that means is that pitchers that would have been relegated to the minor leagues back in the 70s are pitching in the majors today.  The talent pool is thinner and there just are not as many pitchers to go the distance.

Another reason is specialization.  With the advent of the closer and setup men in the last three decades, it became almost expected that pitchers just don’t throw nine innings anymore. There was no need.  And of course there is pitch count, a by-product of the Tommy John surgery era.  The common held belief and of course there is a lot of data to back it up, the more a pitcher throws, the more likely a pitcher will need surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament.  It was the surgery that saved Dodger’s pitcher Tommy John and has become so routine that parents of perspective MLB draft choices wonder aloud if their son should have the surgery proactively.  Thankfully surgeons collectively have responded to the request with a resounding NO!  But TJ surgery is another topic for another day. The fact is when we watch a pitching performance like the one that deGrom turned in last night, we marvel and enjoy.  But there was a time when it was no big deal except another win for our team.

More importantly for these current Mets, we now have seen a string of four games when Mets starters have yielded no more than one run. Since deGrom’s previous start when the Mets were drubbed 10-8, Mets pitchers have given up a total of 10 earned runs in six games for an ERA of 1.67.  Obviously I’m glad to see this sudden change in fortunes with the pitching staff.  However, I still think it’s a day by day proposition as the Mets still have a very tough schedule ahead.  I hate to get set up for a fall.

Reyes Was Never “The Franchise” Player

For many Mets fans, this week was very depressing. You saw a Mets superstar leave to join a rival team in the same division. Certainly for some, especially the younger fans, this was devastating (let’s keep it in perspective though, its all in the contents of sports, this isn’t famine, genocide, or nuclear war).

I am here to tell you that the loss of Jose Reyes, although sad and depressing, cannot compare to what happened on June 15, 1977. That was the day the Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Steve Henderson, second baseman Doug Flynn, pitcher Pat Zachery, and outfielder Dan Norman. The only accomplishments of note these players ever made as Mets was that they were part of this historic and dubious trade.

A writer for a local New York daily this week actually wrote that letting Reyes go was on a par with the Seaver trade. Without a doubt, that is the most absurd thing I have ever read.

Tom Seaver’s is referred to as “The Franchise”. That is because he was the Mets biggest star at a time when the Mets were young and had never achieved anything. He is the only Met player to ever be voted into the Hall of Fame. He made it on his first ballot in 1992.

Seaver was named 1967 National League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America, an award Jose Reyes never won. Made the All Star team 6 times while on the Mets and during the season of ’77 when he was traded. He won the Cy Young award in his third season with the Mets in 1969, winning 25 games and pitching the Mets to their first world championship. Seaver won the award again in 1973 and 1975. He also helped achieved a National League pennant in 1973 as the Mets went the distance against the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. He struck out 19 San Diego Padres one afternoon in 1970 including the last ten batters in a row. In his career Seaver fanned 3,640 hitters and became a 300 game winner. His last season was 1986 as a member of the Boston Red Sox. He was ineligible to play due to injury as he ironically sat in the Red Sox dugout during the 1986 World Series.

Seaver personified the Mets in the late 1960s through the mid 1970s. If there are baseball gods who sit in judgement and determine who shall win and who shall lose then perhaps the Mets are being punished over these many years for trading away the greatest player to ever where the orange and blue.

The trade was controversial. Seaver under contract wanted to renegotiate a more reasonable contract considering what certain free agents of lesser ability were getting at the time.

M. Donald Grant, chairman of the board of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, would have nothing of it, saying that Seaver should live up to his current contract. The feud played out on the back pages of the New York papers, specifically the Daily News where writer Dick Young never missed an opportunity to blast Seaver, siding with the owner. (Of course it was perfectly okay a few years later when Young jumped to the New York Post for a better deal.)

Seaver’s complaints were not just in regard to his own contract. He was also critical of how the Mets, led by Grant, were playing it cheap and not seriously considering free agent options for the club. Seaver was quoted as saying that Grant had a “plantation mentality” in regards to the players.

Grant hated free agency. He was an old school baseball official who loved the reserve clause. Remember, this was playing out at a time when George Steinbrenner was bringing in players through free agency turning the Yankees into a powerhouse as they took control of the city. There was no doubt as to who Mets fans sided with in the Seaver-Grant argument.

When things looked like they might be working out, that Seaver might remain a Met, Young wrote an article about how Tom’s wife Nancy was jealous of former Met Nolan Ryan’s wife. That was the last straw for Seaver who demanded that he be traded. A couple days later Seaver tearfully talked to reporters as he cleaned out his Shea Stadium locker.

That was the beginning of a very long dark age for the Mets. Under Grant, the Mets continued to flounder, finishing last in a six team division through the rest of the decade eventually forcing Grant and company to sell the team. Shea Stadium was empty. The most diehard Mets fans went underground, most too embarrassed to admit they were fans of the team.

To compare the Seaver fiasco with Jose Reyes signing a free agent contract elsewhere is ludicrous. The differences are obvious. The Met hierarchy today, made up of GM Sandy Alderson, John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi, and Paul DePodesta, are working with little funds not because of a cheap owner but because of one who is in deep financial trouble. The Mets were willing to pay 80 to 85 million to retain Reyes (Seaver could have only imagined such an amount back in his day). It’s not as if Alderson did not want to keep Reyes. Unfortunately, the money the Mets had to offer was simply not enough.

There were also baseball considerations in regards to Reyes.  Could he stay healthy (he has not for three consecutive seasons) through such a contract? Was it better to use that money on more obvious holes on the team than on one player? All these issues are what went into Reyes leaving the team. Then of course there was Reyes himself who simply wanted to go where the most money was being offered.

The Seaver trade was followed with several hopeless seasons with no obvious plan in place to improve the club. Did M. Donald Grant think that free agency was just going to go away? The farm system was left in complete disarray.  Whitey Herzog, director of player development at the time, left indicating Grant hadn’t a clue about baseball.

Today the Mets are headed in the right direction. Their farm system under the new regime is being rebuilt and already they have begun to stock pile young talent. The team is not as bad as everyone thinks and if they can stay healthy, I think they can compete, at least be in the wild card race.

For fans of Reyes, including myself, this is a depressing turn of events. But it simply cannot compare to when the Mets let one of the greatest pitchers of all time, certainly of the franchise, get away.

For me, Tom Seaver should be a lesson for this franchise, especially in regards to David Wright. Unlike Reyes, Wright has openly stated he wants to remain here. He wants to be part of the solution. He would like to retire a Met. Yes he has had a couple of off years. But with the new field dimensions, we need to see if he can again become the productive hitter he was from 2005 through 2008. Not for the sole purpose of trading him at the deadline but to see if he can become the star player for the Mets that he was on track to be.

I hope Sandy does not give up on Wright, even with his numbers of late, he still is one of the better third baseman in baseball and will not likely be easily replaced. And he is different than Reyes in that he really wants to stay. After watching the developments of this week, I cannot honestly say that was true of Jose.

I was a fan of Reyes but I am no longer since he is now a Marlin. That was not true of Seaver. I continued to root for Tom even when he pitched against the Mets. Seaver was the “Franchise”. Reyes was not.

Reyes vs. Seaver

I have stated on a number of occasions that I do not want the Mets to trade Jose Reyes. Who in the world will the Mets put at shortstop to replace him? There is no one in the organization and unless the Mets plan on magically trading for Troy Tulowitzki, there really will be a hole at the shortstop position and at the top of the lineup.

Having said that, there has been this idea floating around the media that trading Reyes would be just as awful as when the Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Reds in 1977. Balderdash and poppycock I say. The Seaver fiasco was a completely different situation and as good as Jose Reyes is, he is not Tom Seaver.

He was called the “Franchise” for a very good reason. Seaver was a proven winner. He pitched the Mets to the World Series in 1969. Think about this. Seaver won 25 games in ’69, one quarter of all the games the team won. He almost got them a second World Series ring in 1973, losing to the Oakland A’s in 7 games. Seaver remains the only Met player to ever be elected to the Hall of Fame. We knew that would come to be back in 1977. We knew that Seaver was truly something special and that with the game on the line, there was no other pitcher you wanted on that mound than Tom Terrific.

After the trade to the Reds, Seaver continued being the dominate pitcher Mets fans new. We enjoyed a brief one year reprise with the Mets before he moved on to the White Sox where he won his 300th game against the Yankees in New York with Lindsey Nelson broadcasting the ninth inning. It  finally ended, ironically, in the dugout of the Boston Red Sox in the final game of the 1986 World Series at Shea Stadium.

Seaver became expendable because of a feud with vice president of operations M. Donald Grant. Seaver wanted a contract extension similar to what other free agents, of less ability, were getting at the time. Grant, supported by sports writer Dick Young’s anti Seaver columns, refused, citing that a contract is a contract. He simply wanted Seaver to play and shut up. What Grant could not get through his thick head was that the fans would gladly pay to watch Seaver, not listen to Grant’s antiquated philosophy of how a baseball team should be run.

Grant may have had an argument had the Mets been spending in the newly formed free agent market, showing the fans they cared and wanted to win. The truth was Grant was cheap and did not want to spend at all on free agents. He saw Seaver as being only interested in money, not the beloved player dedicated to winning he had come to be to millions of Mets fans. Seaver, like the fan base, was angry that management did not invest in the team at a time when the Yankees were and winning over many New York baseball fans.

In contrast, if Jose Reyes is traded it might very well be because of money but for a very different reason. Because of the financial mess the Mets are in , they simply may not have the money or not want to spend the kind of money it will take to keep Reyes. I’m sure the Mets will offer a contract to Jose if he remains a Met the rest of the season. But considering Reyes’ injury history and his lack of baseball savvy, I can’t see Alderson giving him Carl Crawford type money.

Reyes is not the franchise player that Seaver was. With the game on the line, Jose Reyes has never demonstrated the clutch prowess that Seaver did. I can’t tell you how many times I saw Seaver pitch himself out of jams with the game on the line. He simply got better with men on base, especially when they reached third.

What exactly has Reyes done in terms of taking the Mets to that next level? Even with his remarkable year so far, he often makes Little League mistakes as he did the other evening against LA when he ran to third on a ball hit in front of him or when he got picked off of first not paying attention to the catcher. Reyes has as much natural born ability as Seaver did but the smarts in regards to the game are just not there.

Still, trading Jose Reyes will be a very dark day for Mets fans. It will push them further away from Citi Field than then already are. But if it were to happen, I’m sure that the brain trust in place would be doing so because they are getting the talent back they feel will make the Mets a winner sooner than later. And lets face it, there is something very wrong with the makeup of this team and changes need to be made.

I hope Reyes stays and trading him will be very sad. However, comparing him to the trade of  Tom Seaver, likely the greatest Met of all time, is hard to take serious.