Archive for the 'Mets History' Category

Nails… Oh, and Harvey Too

So I turn on the TV around 5:45PM last evening to discover Matt Harvey has been placed on the disabled list with discomfort in his shoulder. Of course SNY was covering it like there was another terrorist attack or something just as abominable. The banter was mostly that of the sky falling for the Mets who an hour earlier finished off winning the series from the Marlins two games to one not to mention six wins in their last seven games. WHAT WILL THE METS DO?

Can we first see what’s ailing Harvey before we take tickets to see whose jumping off the top of Citi Field first? Also, has anyone noticed that Harvey is 4-10 and hasn’t exactly been a major force this season anyway? The Dark Knight seems more like the Dark Slight. Maybe his shoulder, which the Mets feel could be suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), is the reason why Harvey has struggled all season to begin with. Matt is headed to St. Louis today to get an opinion from a shoulder specialist. His recovery could include anything from rest to surgery. We really know nothing yet.

This is why a team can never have enough pitching. Even though the Mets have major studs in their rotation, there is never a guarantee they will live up to all the hype. The last time a team had four twenty game winners was the 1971 Baltimore Orioles. It just doesn’t happen too often.

Anyway, what I really want to get to is why I turned the TV on to begin with. I was set to watch “Lenny Dykstra: All or Nothing”, a half hour interview with the former Mets and Phillies center fielder hosted by Ron Darling. I was shocked when the Harvey coverage extended past the starting time of the interview. I mean the media really knew nothing about Harvey and yet ala CNN, they just continued to talk about nothing for another fifteen minutes. Breaking News, Breaking News kept appearing at the bottom of the SNY screen. It should have read Breaking Wind because all these talking heads were doing was farting around and delaying the Lenny Dykstra interview I wanted to see.

Around 6:15, the show finally started and let me tell you, this is a must see. It’s one of the best sports interviews in a very long time. Dykstra is promoting his new book “House of Nails – A Memoir of Life on the Edge”. The interview with Darling is a no holds bar account told by Lenny about those years with the Mets and Phillies. Ron Darling, always the consummate professional, leads his former teammate to express what was going through his mind during those tumultuous years. And Lenny does not hold back or sugarcoat anything, including his obvious disdain for former Mets manager Davey Johnson. I also got a kick out of Lenny calling Ron “Dude” throughout the interview. Plus good work by the SNY editors to not cut Lenny’s rather colorful use of language. Although the volume tailed off appropriately, Lenny was not really censored and that added to completing the picture for the type of guy Lenny is—a gutsy down-to-earth former all-star clearly not afraid to discuss or apologize for his actions.

Dykstra talks about his childhood, growing up without a lot of money and his desire to do the only thing he really knew he could and that was to play baseball professionally. His goal from the outset was to make as much money as possible so he would never have to answer to anyone. Money is what drove the Mets’ center fielder, who garnered the nickname Nails, to do whatever it would take to reach his goal.

The most fascinating aspect of the interview was Dykstra’s recounting of his use of steroids and what led to the decision to start using. He claims his steroid use turned him from a scrappy very good player into an all-star.

Dykstra was traded from the Mets to the Phillies mid 1989 during a game between the Mets and Phillies in Philadelphia. Lenny welcomed the move, feeling intense anger at Johnson for never letting him become an everyday player. Dykstra knew that if he was to be an elite player, he had to do something to help him be bigger and stronger like other players in the game who were naturally larger than him.

The interview also extends beyond baseball and gets into his development of a chain of car washes and his incredible run on the stock market. At one point, Dykstra’s wealth reached fifty-eight million dollars but his reckless behavior had finally taken its toll. After a shattered marriage, legal issues sent Dykstra off to prison. Dykstra talks of how that experience was a turning point in his life.

This is an interview not to be missed regardless if you are a Mets fan, baseball fan, or a fan of any sport. It’s about someone who felt so compelled to succeed at wealth that he stopped at nothing to achieve it. Ultimately Dykstra paid the price for the people he trampled over along the way. There is a lesson in Dykstra’s life and one that is appropriate for many people today who believe money is the answer to everything.

In an era where players are coached to say all the right things, it was a breath of fresh air to listen to a former player tell it exactly like it was. I don’t admire how Dykstra went about reaching his goal but I don’t hate the man either. I do appreciate his honesty and candor. Hopefully Dykstra is helping to remove the vail over athletes and show they really are very human. Dykstra’s book is available at Amazon.

Now back to Harvey. Look, I hope Matt is okay. Hopefully his condition is minor and can be managed without season ending surgery. But the idea that Matt could be gone for the season is no reason to assume the Mets are cooked. As I mentioned in a post recently, the successful teams are the ones with depth. The Mets have that now. In terms of pitching, they have many candidates that can be a fifth starter and realistically, according to the numbers, that’s what the Mets have gotten from Harvey. He’s been a fifth starter. Hopefully this turns out to be a good thing. The doctors will uncover what is wrong, fix it, and eventually Harvey can get back to the pitcher we all know he can be.

Now the Mets need to figure out a way to at least split the four game set with the Nationals. Heading into the All-Star Break, four out isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Hopefully the Mets will continue their current winning ways and do better.

Update: Ok, news has come down that apparently Harvey does have TOS and is considering season ending surgery. If that’s the case so be it. Get healthy Matt and become a cheerleader for you teammates. While it’s a blow to the Mets now doubt, it is not the end of the season. The Mets have the talent to persevere.

After 10 Games

It is still way too early to panic. Only ten games have been played so far. With a 4-6 record and sloppy play on the field, it is understandable that the fan base is beginning to grow apathetic once again. But a 4-6 record is not the end of the world…or is it?

First off, the 2011 Mets are in some good company. Atlanta, the darlings of the sports writers this spring, have also gotten off to a 4-6 start. The Braves lost to the Phillies last night, shutout by Cole Hammels who the Mets beat handily just last week.  St. Louis, perennial contenders, have also begun to a 4-6 tune. And the world champions themselves, the San Francisco Giants, find themselves at 4-6 as they look at the standings in this morning’s paper.

However, what has me concerned is not the record as much as it is what I see on the field, especially from the bullpen. But, since everyone will be writing about that, I thought I would take a different tack and look at how Mets teams of the past fared when winning four of their first ten games.

The 2011 Mets become the fifteenth club in team history to start out at 4-6 after 10 games. Unfortunately there is more bad news than good.

The first time it happened was in 1965. After a 4-6 start, that Mets team went on to a 50-112 record. As you might have guessed, that was bad enough to end in 10th place  just 47 games back. The next three Mets squads, through 1968, also started the season at 4-6. The fate of those teams were not much better ending their seasons in 9th, 10th, and 9th respectively.

The next time the Mets went 4-6 in the first ten games was in 1975. And for the first time, the Mets actually finished a season over .500 (82-80) after a 4-6 start . That was good enough for a third place finish (six teams in two divisions at the time) and 10.5 games back.

In total, the Mets finished above .500 after a 4-6 start just four out of 14 times. The most successful being in 2000 when the Mets won their last National League pennant with a regular season record of 94-68. The following year, ’01, the Mets also started 4-6 but stumbled most of the season coming on strong toward the end to finish at 82-80.  And in 1990, the Mets ended the season twenty games over .500 at 91-71 after a 4-6 start but failed to make the playoffs.

Therefore the other ten times the Mets started a season at 4-6, they ended in total oblivion. This is not good for this season in terms of the odds. But again, it’s the way the Mets are playing that has me more concerned than their record.

How did the Mets do after ten games in the years they made the playoffs you ask? Well there is one example where you might find some hope.

During the miracle year of 1969, the Mets actually started worse. After ten games, the 69ers were 3-7. In ’73 when the Mets came within one game of winning a world series, they started out at 6-4. But that’s a bit misleading because for most of that season, the Mets wallowed in the basement before making a mad push to the pennant in a very mediocre division.

The ’86 Mets were 7-3 in the midst of an eleven game winning streak during their first ten. In ’88, they also started out 7-3.

The Mets would not return to the playoffs until 1999 when they also compiled a 7-3 record after the first ten. And in 2006, the last time the Mets went to the post season, that club started the season well with an 8-2 mark, the best in Mets history tied with the ’85 and ’72 clubs.

And the worst ten game start in Mets history goes to… none other than the illustrious club of 1962. That team started the season with a nine game losing streak before winning the first game in Mets history to go 1-9 after ten games.

So for the most part, getting off to a 4-6 start is not good. The Mets got to the playoffs only twice when starting out at 4-6 or worse. I think it is safe to say that for the most part, good teams start out good and bad teams do not. But of course there are always exceptions and it is a long season. But clearly, if the Mets do not figure out a way to straighten out their bullpen and get some clutch hitting, this 4-6 start season will likely end up on the wrong side of the ledger.