Geometry was never my strong suit. “Never” is an understatement. My only hope for not failing it in ninth grade and not having to repeat it in tenth was the New York State Regents exam, my Get Out of Jail card. Pass the Regents and pass the class.
I never could've done it without extra help. My mother hired a 12th grade National Honor Society student to tutor the hell out of me and I took every practice test I could find in every Barrons book I could lay a hand on. Thanks to all that help, I vaulted over the magic 65 needed to pass the Regents. I got a 71 on the statewide test and was given a 66 for the year. Passed geometry with an entire point to spare.
We all need help at certain endeavors. So consider me your Barrons guide if not exactly your personal David Fried (my patient, diligent geometry tutor of 27+ years ago who presumably went on to garner a Nobel Prize or two). The answers to the Mets Final Exam are scheduled to be posted Tuesday. I want to help you get as many as you can before then. We have the weekend to cram. I'm no David Fried, but maybe I can be your Billy Swan. I can help.
What you need to do is look for the words in each question that will trigger your Met memory. They are often as, if not more important than, the mundane facts surrounding the player's performance in his final game.
I've plucked out some phrases of note from each of the questions and will attempt to help you break them down. This may lead you to the answer directly or spark an idea of who to look for in your previously recommended resource material. (And don't forget that only one player corresponds to any year in Mets history.)
Let's have it, shall we?
1. influence…subject of debate…final hit as a Met was fairly influential…by no means understated
• This tells us that there was controversy about the guy but that he did something very important in a very unusual manner, one that's as much about Met lore as it is box score. That word understated has to be there for a reason. Take the word apart and think about its components. At least one of them must have something to do with the answer.
2. Some guys…loud deals that involve multiple players and guys who've won big awards… I went quietly…
• The loud-quiet dichotomy must have a purpose. The guy was known for being either really loud or really quiet. The part about trades tells us there's something more about this player's career than his exit, as if at some other point he was actually involved in the kind of deal that he says didn't end things for him. Also, think about the juxtaposition of this question as it relates to other questions on the test.
3. When the year I left the Mets was over…second to nobody except Tom Seaver
• He probably left before the season was over. Think of all the ways you can be second to all-time Mets great Tom Seaver at any given moment.
4. I had been second to nobody except Tom Seaver.
• All the ways you can come in second to Tom Seaver.
5. Seaver was 1, then I was 2.
• If you are a baseball linguist, give the wording here some thought.
6. How big a deal was my first Mets' start? A Hall of Famer came on the field and said some wonderful things before the game. A player en route to the Hall of Fame said it was a dream come true to play with me. And another future denizen of Cooperstown finished up for me.
• If this sounds unique, it's because it is. Unique to the point of absurd.
7. I began my lengthy career with the Tigers in the '60s.
• Take a deep breath and realize that the obvious answer isn't always the right answer. In fact, around here, it almost never is.
8. I never really got the attention I deserved…top-notch lefty…more than 200 games…went 3-0 in World Series competition… never as famous as the big-deal righty at the top of the rotation…
• Never, actually.
9. classy lefty in my day…fewer fingers than five that to count how many wins I collected for the Mets that year
• Doesn't sound like somebody who did all that much in his last year. Did he ever do all that much for the Mets?
THE NEW QUESTION NO. 10
10. The last pitch I threw as a Met was whacked for a double that scored two runs. Both the batter and one of the runners who scored were players who would go on to manage against the Mets. I'm most famous for a home run I gave up to another player in New York, one who never managed.
• Decide what's most important piece of information in the question and work from there.
THE OLD QUESTION NO. 10, NOW A BONUS
BONUS: Mets fans should've loved me considering how well I pitched against the Yankees. Heck, in what appeared to be my final outing, I threw a shutout against Houston. In fact, I beat one of those Yankee dynasty guys. Then I was traded to a contender during the season but came back to the Mets a year later. I no longer have a legitimate place in this quiz, but I've got a really cool nickname, so try to figure me out anyway.
• The problem with the Yankees is they've had more than one dynasty. But we'd have to love a guy who killed the Yankees, right? Killed 'em.
11. I was seven years from fulfilling my first manager's prophecy for me when I struck out in my last Met at-bat. My opportunities were limited in New York, but I got a chance in Seattle.
• Do a lot of managers make a lot of proclamations about young players? Your Met history absorption will come in handy here. And Seattle? What's up with that?
12. the guy who replaced me was the right guy in the right place.
• Sometimes it helps to say these questions out loud.
13. I was lost… the Mets scored nothing for me…big country.
• Play with various words here and reputations in Mets history.
14. 3-for-5…6-for-10…some kid
• Sounds like quite a finish to a Mets career. Who would compel the Mets to trade somebody on such a roll?
15. I didn't play in the Majors at all the year before I became a Met and I didn't play in the Majors at all the year after I became a Met. It was over…
• It was over? That seems like a rather definitive statement. Much has been said in baseball over the years regarding when something is over and when something is not over.
16. Heard of being cursed with versatility? That's what I'm beginning to think happened to me. I could play two positions with pretty much equal ability. Though I was known as an above-average hitter, the Mets kept shifting me back and forth in the infield depending on what big-name player they'd just acquired. I didn't make much of a fuss about it. I was taken out of my final game before it ended (having gone 1-for-3) and left the team with little fanfare. Why did they let me go? Maybe they were concerned about my health.
• Sometimes the description is pretty straightforward but might apply to more than one Met. You just have to patiently rewind your mind.
17. a half-inning in the field…the night before, I collected my final hit. It was a long one…run out of town.
• Why was he gone after a long hit? Why was he “run” out of town and not just released or traded? Give it some thought.
18. I wasn't perfect. Few are.
• What you have to do is think about who has been perfect and who might have a reason to relate to that perfection.
19. Nationally noticed…I took the collar. It was a pretty tight one for all of us that day.
• Things apparently didn't go well for the Mets on this player's final day. Must've been a big deal. And look at how he's noticed.
20. Someday, a team would trust me to start with its pennant hopes on the line.
• Can you recall a one-time Met who was handed the ball in the situation described above? There aren't too many instances of that.
21. The Mets brought me in to take a shot at making the playoffs. And you may have heard I helped my team get to the playoffs twice. Alas, that team wasn't the Mets.
• This smacks of Met futility and another team's success. You need to think about other teams who have had multiple successes with futile Mets.
22. The team found a reason to get rid of me anyway…determined to strengthen my resolve.
• A Met the Mets didn't want. A baseball player with strength on his mind.
23. Considering who I was traded for, I didn't really measure up as a Met, but I did manage to go 2-for-4…
• A trade, not measuring up, managing. Analyze your key words.
24. My last Mets pitching appearance was as representative as could be of all my Mets pitching appearances. It ended with a clean inning: three up, three down. And oh yeah — in my final Mets game, I went 0-for-4.
• A single inning that was “as representative as can be” of all his pitching appearances? A perfect inning? And why does it matter what he did at the plate in his final game? There must be a reason the pitching and the hitting are offered in this manner.
25. Ya gotta believe it was stunning to see me traded from the Mets so suddenly. What if my last pitch in relief lost us a game to the Pirates? Didn't I deserve better considering my Mets pedigree?
• Remember what we said about the obvious almost never being right. But ya gotta believe there must be some relation to the obvious candidate in a situation like this.
26. I came to the Mets a winner…I dig winning. Losing? Not so much.
• You can like winning. You can love winning. But it takes a certain kind of professional to “dig” winning. And what would cause him to point out what a winner he was?
27. If there were a number with which I was synonymous as a Met, it was three. Really, when you think of three, there were few other Mets who'd come up in the same conversation. Hence, it hardly seemed appropriate that I got only one at-bat in my final Met game and flied out to right. No, if you remember me, you remember me and three.
• Numbers have all kinds of applications in baseball. Some numbers you wear on your back. Some are the sum total of your accomplishments in a given period. Sometimes the accomplishment and the period combine to be particularly memorable.
28. You can make a case for me as one of the finest shortstops of my generation. I wasn't a heavyweight or a heavy hitter, but I was a Gold Glover and can be recalled as feisty when I needed to be. I finished up 1-for-3 as a Met, batting (what else?) eighth. And it's worth mentioning that I was an All-Star and played in the World Series.
• Details, details. Process of elimination is required. Who doesn't have all these details to his credit and who does?
29. I gave up a very important run in a very important game versus the Braves. That was the last inning I pitched for the Mets. I was pitching elsewhere when the next season began.
• Sounds like it was a big game, the kind where one run appeared to make all the difference. In a big game, there can be more than one run that appears to make all the difference.
30. A rising tide lifts all boats? I don't know about that. All I know is I sailed away after my final game…I was able to sail away (theoretically speaking).
• Somebody sure has a nautical bent. Not the type of thing to show up in the box score, but definitely the stuff of team legend.
31. I'd save my best for later, but I'd never win a bigger game than I once did for the Mets.
• Save…later…win…never win a bigger game…for the Mets. (Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, a typo of sorts has been fixed in the test.)
32. Joe Torre derailed my final game as a Met, though Mets fans should be used to that sort of thing after all these years…didn't leave me in the mood to express what I was thinking.
• Joe Torre has been around a long time, so that could mean anything. But why was this man derailed? What about “express”? Express as in the noun or express as in the verb? Or possibly both? And why?
33. a little revenge on Joe Torre's team given the way I closed out my Met career…traded me a while after that…Hey, what can I say?
• You have to make a decision? What phrase tells the story of this player's identity and what phrase is there to confirm your hunch? What's with the “a while after” business? And what role does Torre have here? A primary one? An incidental one?
34. turned to me…We got beat… vacation…
• Sometimes you have to know more than baseball to answer these questions. Sometimes you have to know if a player had something to do with somebody who did something else outside of baseball.
35. Reggie Jackson and his bold declarations about playing in New York had nothing on me. Pretty sweet.
• Reggie Jackson? The guy who said something about what would be named after him if he played in New York? Could our mystery Met be thinking about how he was born into such an honor?
36. I was known as a terribly dreadful hitter. Historically dreadful. They didn't get much worse than me at my position…I, however, had four hits on my ledger that night.
• There are nine positions on the baseball field. How many yield historically dreadful hitters who really, really stick out? And what are four hits on his “ledger” doing here?
37. No Met had more hits than I did in my last year as a Met…rescue…mobile…dive… “Rich. Very rich.”
• Some questions make you put the pieces together. When you do, you have an idea of what you're looking for.
• You need to pay attention to the sorts of things team executives say when they trade for certain players.
39. In two years' time I went from starter to rarely used backup…I donned a Mets uniform.
• Aside from this player's timetable, what gets me is that he “donned” a Mets uniform. Didn't wear it, didn't put it on. He had to don it. Hmmm…
40. My years with the Mets spanned more than a decade…Babe Ruth reincarnated…
Have the Mets had a lot of guys who spanned more than a decade with them? And what do any of them have to do with the Babe? He died on August 16, 1948.
41. I didn't start…I departed the team…
• Starting and departing seem to be the key verbs for this player.
42. set the stage for an eventual pennant.
Sometimes you trade a guy and you get a guy who helps you win a pennant. Sometimes you have to trade that second guy to get where you're going. Sometimes…
43. My performances on the All-Star and World Series stages as a reliever were excellent, but my last appearance as a Met came as a starter.
• Why would someone who pitched relief in All-Star and World Series competition be used as a starter? You have to ask yourself about this pitcher's role on the team.
44. I did something no Red Sock before me could lay claim to. Yet Boston overlooked my historical contribution to their team and I ended up on the Mets.
• Take another deep breath. Consider that there are very few things that “no Red Sock” had done before any other. Remember that even if something was done for the first time in a very long time that it was done before. You have to think about somebody who was a pioneer at doing something “historical” as a Red Sock and understand that doing something “historical” can be about more than winning.
I hope I've been of some assistance or at the very least not confused you any more than you already were. It may not seem like it, but I want you to do well on your final exam. Good luck.