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Ya know…Jeurys Familia wasn’t exactly the Mets first choice. Nope, he wasn’t. Actually, the Mets were counting on some guy named Jenrry Mejia. Where did THAT come from? Well…with so many so-called experts counting the Mets out because Edwin Diaz is out for the year, the name Mejia should serve as a reminder.
After being groomed as a starter, Mejia had a somewhat breakout season in 2014 coming out of the pen. He made 63 appearances and pitched to a 6-6 record with an ERA of 3.65 and picked up seven saves. Mejia impressed by averaging 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Mejia was primed to be the closer for the 2015 season. But, guess what? On Opening Day…OPENING DAY…Mejia was warming up for a 9th inning save but came up lame before entering the game. He went on the 15-game DL with an elbow issue. But wait…there’s more. While on the DL, MLB announced it was suspending Mejia for 80 games for testing positive for a banned substance. The Mets replaced Mejia with Familia, who had been serving in a set-up role.
It was 50 years ago that would, in some ways, turn out to be a more amazing season than the season labeled “The Miracle Mets.” The difference is that the New York Mets were not expected to win, or do anything good, for that matter, in 1969. Because they never had before. But they WERE expected to win in 1973.
In the seasons after 1969, 1970 and 1971, the Mets were truly competitive, with consecutive 83-win, third-place finishes.
When I was the host of my first call-in radio talk show, I had a caller who said, “I think the rules in baseball are dumb.” And I asked, “What do you mean?” The caller responded, “Well, in baseball they say that if you have four balls you walk, right?” I said, “Yes.” The caller said, “Well that is dumb. How can anybody walk with four balls?”
Regardless that that caller was a crank caller…and he was just trying to get me off my game…which he did as I was unable to maintain my composure for some time afterwards…all these years later…he would be right. The rules have become somewhat odd, to the point where it is hard to recognize the national pastime.
The New York Mets spent all but a few days of the 2022 season in first place. The spending of owner Steve Cohen, the dealings of general manager Billy Eppler, and the infusion of a new thought process and back to "old school" baseball by manager Buck Showalter proved the recipe for an emergence from the doldrums of what had come to be expected of the recent Mets.
The team has surpassed expectations. And, yet, the keyboard experts on social media are calling the team lifeless, choke artists, playing without heart, hyper-analyzing every move made, every instance of failure magnified. Rather than the post season excitement exhibited by Toronto Blue Jays fans, Seattle Mariners fans, San Diego Padres fans...Mets fans and media alike are ranting about the Mets as if they had just suffered a collapse of epic proportions.
You want to talk about collapse? Let's do that.
If anyone had said that the Mets and Yankees would both be in first place at the same time after Labor Day weekend, most fans not only would be shocked, but pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately while the two teams are still sitting at the top of their respective divisions, the double-digit leads have dwindled. While the Yankees seem to have squandered what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the American League East, the Mets have seen a 10 ½ game lead in the National League totally slip away.
Social media hounds are exuding feelings of gloom and doom. The usually calm and collected Aaron Boone has publicly come unglued, obviously feeling the pressures of having to maintain the Yankee prestige while vying for a championship. The fans and pundits don’t seem to care that the team is still in first place, even with a decimated roster whereby the only constant has been Aaron Judge.
Likewise, social media has been lighting up with harsh criticism of Buck Showalter and the Mets demise. In reality, Mets fans should be ecstatic that the team is in a pennant race at all. Just think about it…the Mets won 77 games in 2021. They have already won 10 games more than that with 24 games to go. They are on pace to win 103 games. Heck, if they only go 13-11 the rest of the way, they will still win 100 games for only the third time in history. The other two times? They won 100 in 1969 and 108 in 1986. The only two World Series Championships in team history.
I once wrote a paper in high school titled “What’s Wrong with the Mets?” My 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Baumann, was not happy about it, but she gave me a pass and permitted me to write about a subject that was apparently so important to me.
What I remember most about that project was reading everything I could get my hands on about the Mets. In those days, it was books and newspaper clippings. The books were great and I ended up with a nice little collection after it was all over. For the newspaper clippings, I had to have my mom drive me to the local daily newspaper – The News Tribune in Woodbridge, NJ – so that I could look at microfilm.
There was so much to look through and I was quickly scanning past most of the old papers, watching it fly past on the big screens in front of me. What I didn’t realize was that my mother also had her eyes fixated on the screens and, apparently, it got her dizzy because I suddenly heard a loud THUD from behind me. I turned to see two big guys tending to her, helping her to her feet.
I don’t why that story always makes me laugh. But what I learned over the years about my lovable Mets, was not really funny at all.
And if you are wondering what is actually WRONG with the New York Mets, you have to look a lot further than Michael Conforto having a horrible season, than Edwin Diaz not living up to expectations, than Jacob deGrom becoming a fragile commodity, and a rookie manager seemingly in way over his head. That is a reason for a bad season…a bad record. It is not even scratching the surface of what is so very wrong with this organization.
Fans love to scream about spending money and focus on that. Heck, it ain't about that. It is so much more. Because everything they do is just not normal.
Two men who are loved by New York Mets fans, enjoyed similar successes, and suffered similar frustrations. But each, eventually, received the respect and adoration that they so very much deserved.
Ralph Kiner and Gil Hodges crossed paths many times on the ballfields of Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, as teammates on the National League All Star team, and then both playing significant roles in New York Mets lore.
It was only a matter of time…and not long…before someone pulled out the “card” with regard to Marcus Stroman’s departure from the New York Mets.
Bias of any kind - race, religion, gender, etc. - is unacceptable in any realm, I despise any form of prejudice, bigotry, bias toward anyone or any group because they are deemed to be “different” or any reason for that matter.
In today’s times, people are so concerned with being politically correct, that they often over-compensate so as NOT to appear biased, when, at times, they are actually tipping the scales of bias in the other direction.
That being said...I am so damn sick and tired of people playing the “card,” whatever card it may be, when it is not justified, and there is no reality in what they are alleging. If there IS an issue with bias, prejudice, or bigotry by someone, then shame on them and they should be held accountable for that despicable behavior. But if someone is making a false claim for no other purpose than to further their own personal narrative and agenda, then, likewise, shame on them for being an opportunist and diluting the cause for righteousness.
Not even 24 hours after the final out of the final game of the 2021 New York Mets season, when the misery finally ended, manager Luis Rojas was cut loose…finally put out of his own misery. It is of little surprise, and even less consequence that Rojas didn’t survive this debacle of a season.
And, yes, it was a debacle. The team was brutal. Every player performed well below…WELL below…the expectations. Were the expectations unrealistic? Probably. Most of the expectations were for players who have had less than three years of providing evidence of their expected level of performance. So you have to wonder whether these players are actually CAPABLE of consistent high level performances year in and year out…or are these guys a team of “Super Joe” Charboneaus? Yeah…that’s right…you gotta go look that name up.
I have two tickets for the Friday night game on September 10 for the next Subway Series between the Mets and the Yankees at Citifield. Mets-Yankees. I can’t go because it’s my birthday and I had an opportunity to head to Miami and spend my birthday in South Florida and attend a University of Miami Hurricanes football game. So I have tried to hand the tickets off to friends. Mets-Yankees. Not a single person will take these tickets. Not a one…nay…nay…nay.
And you wanna know why? Because the team is just plain awful. It’s not that they don’t have talented players…because they absolutely do. This team has a roster loaded with talent. But they just haven’t performed very well. It’s that simple. Then to add insult to injury…or rather…injury to insult… the team was, and has been, operating at less than full strength for the entire season.
Remember when you were a little kid and you would brag to your friends and claim that your father was better than someone else’s father? “My dad’s better than yours…” Can you imagine the talk, the banter, the jabs going on in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse and in the infield during meetings at the mound?
Starting behind Steven Matz, returning for the first time as an ex-Met to Citifield, was Vlad Guerrero, Jr. (son of Vlad Guerrero) at first base, Bo Bichette (son of Dante Bichette) at shortstop, and Cavan Biggio (son of Craig Biggio) at third base. Sandwiched in between them was poor Marcus Semien at second base. What could he possibly add to the conversation with those three?
The three dads were pretty damn good ballplayers, all of them with great career numbers, two of them – Guerrero and Biggio – in the Hall of Fame.
I just saw a headline that read “MLB Celebrating the Greatest of All” in regards to the 2021 Major League Baseball All Star Game. Greatest of all? Come on. You’re kidding me.
I also have read in multiple places where fans, especially Mets fans, are claiming, and complaining, that Pete Alonso will have ruined his swing by participating in the Home Run Derby. Again…you’re kidding me.
As for Alonso, and anyone else who participates in a “home run derby,” it is absolutely absurd to think that someone’s swing will be affected. These players sport a swing that is geared to home run derby every game. Launch angles…exit velocity…linear weights…terms in 1971, 50 years ago, were associated with a NASA spacecraft launch are now the science behind hitting a baseball.
And it was 50 years ago, the 1971 All Star Game, that it truly was an exhibition of some of the “greatest of all” in baseball history. In that game, 21 players that went to that game in Detroit made it to the Hall of Fame.
Alan Karmin is an award-winning journalist and author. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and spent most of his life growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. Alan's family were avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans and when the Dodgers moved west, the Mets became the team to root for. The Mets have always been a true focal point, Alan even wrote a term paper in high school to analyze what was wrong with the Mets. While at the University of Miami, Alan honed his craft covering the, gulp, Yankees during spring trainings in Fort Lauderdale for a local NBC affiliate, as well as the Associated Press and UPI. He broadcasted baseball games for the University of Miami, and spring training games for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. New York Mets Mania is a forum for Alan to write about his favorite team and for baseball fans to chime in and provide their thoughts and ideas about New York's Amazin' Mets.