Welcome to Flashback Friday: Tales From The Log, a final-season tribute to Shea Stadium as viewed primarily through the prism of what I have seen there for myself, namely 364 regular-season and 13 postseason games to date. The Log records the numbers. The Tales tell the stories.
4/25/93 Su San Diego 3-3 Fernandez 7 32-34 L 9-8
It’s going to be a beautiful day. So warm for April. And the Mets are going to be good.
Last season? Clearly an aberration. Clearly. Too much talent on the roster for it to happen again. Reinforcements arrived while the injuries were healing. Management’s not taking any chances this time around.
Too many proven stars here for another debacle like the year before or the year before that. Everyone agrees. We’re the consensus choice to finish first.
Look at the names in this lineup that the manager has penciled in on this beautiful Sunday:
Vince Coleman: Healthy at last, watch him run
Tony Fernandez: A steal for Wally Whitehurst
Eddie Murray: Hall of Fame bound
Bobby Bonilla: Put the controversy behind him; he can hit
Howard Johnson: Mr. 30-30
Joe Orsulak: Pro’s pro
Chico Walker: A Bob Bailor for the ’90s
Todd Hundley: The kid’s coming along
Sid Fernandez: Always tough to hit
Yes, Jeff Torborg has all kinds of weapons at his disposal.
What’s our record coming in? 8-8? OK, not fantastic, but it’s early. We’re not a .500 club obviously. I mean look at this talent! We’ve got more where that came from, too. Jeff Kent’s not starting today, but he’s a comer at second. Cone’s not even with Toronto anymore. Ryan Thompson has a world of ability to go along with Kent’s grit and hustle. Al Harazin may very well have know what he was doing by getting them.
And pitching? Geez, El Sid is only the third starter. Doc is Doc again and Saberhagen’s been reasonably sharp. I saw them start and win the first two games of the season, the first two games in the history of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies are just an expansion club, but still, you would have never thought 1992 happened with the way the Mets handled them. Throw in Pete Schourek, who I like a lot, and Frank Tanana, who’s crafty if nothing else, and this isn’t a bad rotation. Franco’s still Franco in the pen, we’ve got Mike Maddux to set him up and you know Anthony Young is better than his record indicates.
Oh, it’s a beautiful day. This is my third game, the second in the birthday box that the family gave me to enjoy 1993. They’re not big fans but I guess they knew that the year that I would enjoy going to lots of games would be ’93, what with the Mets sure to bounce back from the disappointments of ’92 and ’91.
The big story in New York sports this beautiful Sunday is the Knicks. They’re finishing the regular season at the Garden against the Bulls in what’s almost certainly a playoff preview. Knicks have already secured home-court advantage. They built themselves up during their offseason, too — they got Charles Smith! — and they seem to be going places. But I’m going to Shea and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We’re only playing the lousy Padres. They’re supposed to suck this year, what with having dismantled a contender, the cheapskates. I mean who trades a shortstop like Tony Fernandez? Man, swooping in and picking him up for Whitehurst, D.J. Dozier and some minor league catcher (Raul Casanova…cute name) was brilliant. Who do they have anymore anyway? Gwynn, I guess. And Gary Sheffield, the punk. Everybody else is a has-been ex-Met — Tim Teufel’s starting at first! Craig Shipley at short! — or a never-will-be. Who’s Derek Bell? Who’s Ricky Gutierrez? Their starting pitcher is the Yankee washout Dave Eiland. I only remember him because he went to USF. Yeah, this is going to be great.
The Mets are only .500 at the moment, but that’s going to change. And me, I’m about to be .500. My own record at Mets games (I write it down in a notebook) is 32-33. I’ve been trying to get back to .500 since like 1979. Today’s the day, I can feel it. 1993 is no 1979, no sir. We are going to kick the Padres’ ass.
We’re gonna kick everybody’s ass!
I can’t believe we lost that game. It would have been so great to have won. I mean, yeah, I had a nice time. Good field level seats in right, good company with Fred (not a big Mets fan, but always fun to go to a game with). I was so psyched coming in, and then what happens?
El Sid doesn’t have it. Strange. For years we’ve marveled at his stuff and the way he can just shut down an opponent. But today he didn’t have it and it was obvious from the get-go. Gives up a single to Gwynn and who homers off him? Tim Teufel. Tim Teufel! Geez, we traded him for Garry Templeton and Templeton’s long departed.
We start to get it back, though. Coleman doubles (he’s gonna have a great season, I can feel it) and after Tony Fernandez hits a professional groundball to the right side, Murray does the same. It’s 2-1 after one. Screw you, Dave Eiland.
But what happens? Sid gives it back! Shipley gets on. Gutierrez gets on and Coleman can’t handle a fly ball. He wasn’t wearing his shades, two runs scored. Still, I’m happy Coleman’s in left after trying him in center. He’ll be fine.
This is going to be a slugfest. HoJo walks and is moved over by a wild pitch and another professional grounder, this one by Orsulak. Charlie O’Brien, who entered the game after Hundley and Sheffield, the punk for whom I don’t envision a particularly long career were ejected after jabbering over the stealing of signs, lifted a professional fly ball to left. 4-2. Two innings later, HoJo doubles in Murray to make it 4-3. Yeah, we’re gonna to win this thing.
Damn, though. Sid can be so maddening! Maybe they are stealing his signs. He gives up another hit to Teufel (I could swear he was through two years ago), hits Phil Clark, who replaced Sheffield, with a pitch and then Derek Bell, whoever the hell he is, hits a three-run homer. We’re down 7-3 suddenly. Mke Draper comes in and makes it 8-3.
Well, it’s still sunny and it’s still warm and 24,806 of us can still hope, can’t we? Of course we can — these are the 1993 Mets and they’re loaded! In the sixth, Murray singles, Bonilla doubles him in and HoJo drives him in with a single. That chases Eiland (bye Bull!) and the Mets go to work on the Padres’ bullpen. Orsulak singles, Walker makes with a professional grounder to the right side, O’Brien walks and then Dave Gallagher — another reassuring veteran bat off the bench — works out a bases-loaded walk. Vinny C. keeps the rally going with a seeing-eye base hit to center that scores two more. It’s 8-8 with runners on first and second, Tony Fernandez and Eddie Murray due up.
Oh man we are so going to win.
Somehow we don’t. Tony takes called strike three and Eddie skies to Gwynn. But five runs in the sixth…that’s the Mets. You can never count them out, surely not in 1993.
A.Y. comes into pitch and looks great. Strikes out Bell and gets the next two batters. We’re looking good after the stretch because we’ve got Bonilla, HoJo and Orsulak coming up. But nothing doing. Johnson walks but is cut down at second stealing.
Young’s still in there to start the eighth. Gives up a single to Shipley the Australian. He gets sacrificed to second and then Gutierrez strikes out. Great! But wait…Shipley steals third and O’Brien throws the ball away and Shipley scores all the way from Down Under. Damn! Could A.Y. have any worse luck? At least he gets Gwynn. I don’t understand it: Anthony Young has great stuff — why doesn’t he ever win?
I’m not discouraged though. Kent, who came in as part of a double-switch is leading off. He’s a little tight, but he’s going to be a big part of the Mets’ future. I can tell. Ooh, hits the ball hard, but Gutierrez nabs it at third. O’Brien doesn’t do anything and neither does Jeff McKnight, pinch-hitting for A.Y. Anthony stands to be the losing pitcher if we don’t come back. What’ll that be, sixteen in a row? I’m telling you, he’s not that bad.
Maddux gets the Padres 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth. C’mon, we gotta win this thing! Who’s San Diego’s closer? Gene Harris? Who the hell is Gene Harris? Man, as long as the Padres are having a fire sale, they should think about trading that overpriced punk Sheffield for a real relief pitcher. I hear Florida’s got deep pockets…
Anyway, never mind them. It’s up to us now, and we’ve got exactly who we want up there, top of the order. Vince Coleman, one of the best leadoff hitters in the last ten years; Tony Fernandez, a great player in Toronto and San Diego (I never thought the Blue Jays got such a steal when they had to give him up for Roberto Alomar); and Eddie Murray, only like the most clutch hitter in the universe. Against Gene Harris? Oh, we’re winning this baby. We’re going over .500 for the year and I’m getting back to .500 for my life.
But we and I don’t and didn’t. Coleman and Fernandez flied to left. Murray ended the day by grounding to Jeff Gardner, another ex-Met, at second. And just like that, it was over. We lost 9-8. Our record is 8-9. My record is 32-34. But, as I tell Fred on the way home as we listen to the Knicks take out Chicago, there’s still lots of season to go.
Jeff Torborg won 94 games with the White Sox just three years ago, didn’t he?
We have all this talent, don’t we?
1993′s going to be just fine, isn’t it?
Seasons don’t just start going to hell all at once this fast, do they?