Hey now and forever, Michael Conforto, you’re an All-Star, no matter how your league got its game on, no matter that there was a decent case to be made for at least two other players from your team getting your spot. But never mind that Jacob deGrom was the most stellar Met of the first half or that Jay Bruce played more regularly and compiled more steadily. When Conforto was at his best, which was for a legitimately measurable stretch (.341/.437/.712 in his first 41 games), he was very good, and we all believe he will be very good for years to come when not injured, slumping or benched.
And he will be a Met All-Star in our memories no matter where his journey might take him, for when you’re a Met All-Star, you’re a Met All-Star all the way, from the first word of your selection to your last dying day and then some. There have been 56 All-Star teams named since the Mets were founded and 56 different Mets who have been named to them. Whether perennial, cameo, starter, reserve, injury replacement, replaced because of injury or blasé veteran who just couldn’t be bothered to travel to your umpteenth Midsummer Classic , you retain the designation for the rest of time. You are a Met All-Star. You’ll always be a little extra special in the minds of we who get starry-eyed about this stuff every July.
Met All-Star Michael Conforto got into the 2017 All-Star Game  in the sixth inning, made a slightly difficult catch in the top of the seventh and singled in the bottom of the seventh before being erased on a 4-6-3 double play. With a chance to win the damn thing in the bottom of the ninth — tie score, second and third, two out, two-and-two count — Michael went down swinging against Craig Kimbrel. An All-Star fanned an All-Star, no shame therein. I look forward to the youngster getting another at-bat in a Mets uniform in another such contest coming soon to a season near us.
In the anticlimactic tenth inning of the game Tuesday, Robinson Cano of the Mariners homered off Wade Davis of the Cubs to elevate the American League to yet another victory in the series that I’m beginning to believe has been on the air for too long. I really liked the All-Star Game more when the heroes inevitably defeated the anti-heroes. I grew up used to a better plotline. The National League used to win these things reliably. You could set your calendar by it. It was as it should be, “should be” based on it being the way it was when I was 7, 12, 17 and 22, among other impressionable junctures of my baseball-loving life.
Those are long times ago now. You’d be amazed how long it’s been since the National League were habitual All-Star Game winners. I keep track of these things and I’m amazed. It’s been so long that I am no longer used to the idea of the NL winning, which really bums me out, despite the exhibition nature of this spectacle, despite the uncounting of the result where World Series hosting is concerned, despite the fact that we won’t be thinking at all about any of this by Friday. For now, it’s the All-Star break. For now, I think about it.
As my several minutes of annoyance at Conforto residing in a losing All-Star box score subsided, I thought about how long it’s been since a Met was on the other side of the agate, actively taking part in a National League win. Well, the National League hasn’t won since 2012, so you’d have to go back to 2012 and have a look-see. We look and see R.A. Dickey and David Wright — each of whom should have been starters but weren’t — helped the Senior Circuit assert its seniority. It was the first and only time R.A. got a piece of the All-Star action, but not the first or last for David, nor the first time he was an All-Star winner. In 2010, the game that broke a dismaying National League drought, Wright started at third, went 2-for-2 and could take a slice of credit for a 3-1 NL win. I’m sure he didn’t take too much, though. That’s just the way David is. Or was. No, is. Let’s say is.
In between ’10 and ’12, the National League won the 2011 game, at Chase Field. Despite the park being home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the designated hitter (ptui!) was in effect, and the starting National League DH was Carlos Beltran, then and for a couple more weeks of the New York Mets. Beltran can thus claim to be one of the three most recent winning Mets All-Stars, alongside Dickey and Wright.
If we wish to expand the Schaefer Circle of Triumph in terms of Mets who played in All-Star Games won by the National League most recently, we’re going to have redefine recency. I mentioned a dismaying drought. Such dismay. Such a drought. Before 2010, the NL hadn’t brought home the exhibition bacon (or exhibacon™) since 1996. In between, they lost every year but one, 2002, the year of the infamous 7-7 tie. No Met who played for the National League between 1997 and 2009 could say he contributed to a win, and only Mike Piazza could say he contributed to not a loss. He was the sole Met named to the squad in 2002, starting per usual. Otherwise, during the Age of Piazza, every Met who got involved wound up, according to proprietary Smash Mouth research, with their finger and their thumb in the shape of an “L” on their forehead.
To get back to the elastic concept of recency in the context of Mets playing on winning NL teams, the most recent of Mets not named Dickey, Wright or Beltran fitting that description are Todd Hundley and Lance Johnson.
They’re not recent Mets, but they’re as recent as we can get. They are the fourth- and fifth-most recent Mets to get in on an All-Star win and, friends, it wasn’t recent. It was 1996. It was twenty-one years ago. It was in Veterans Stadium, a facility now defunct and already outmoded. There’ve been more presidential elections than Mets who’ve won All-Star games since then. Piazza of the Dodgers was the MVP and we didn’t care because we liked Hundley of the Mets way more. We didn’t have any proprietary attachment to nine other All-Stars who we’d someday care about, either. Piazza, Gary Sheffield, Al Leiter, Steve Trachsel, Ricky Bottalico and T#m Gl@v!ne played for the National League; Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar, Mo Vaughn and Roberto Hernandez participated for the American League. We loved Johnson and we loved Hundley. Every eventual Met listed above was somebody we’d learn to love later. Or attempt to love and instead barely tolerate.
It might have been nice to have had ten additional current All-Stars on the 1996 Mets as opposed to waiting for the skills of most of them to diminish in advance of our acquiring them, but that’s another story. Todd Hundley and Lance Johnson were spectacular 1996 Mets, even if the 1996 Mets (71-91) performed decidedly otherwise. That they are the fourth- and fifth-most recent Mets to have played on a winning National League All-Star team is the story we are pursuing at the moment. If we pursue just a little further into the past, we discover the sixth-most recent Met to have played on a winning National League All-Star team is Bobby Bonilla, in 1995.
That’s Bobby Bonilla 1.0, before they paid him into perpetuity to go away ASAP.
That’s Bobby Bonilla when he was still getting paid by the Mets for playing baseball for the Mets.
That’s Bobby Bonilla when he was good enough to make an All-Star team.
That’s Bobby Bonilla when he was good enough to, like Beltran in ’11, be traded for by a playoff contender — the Orioles — not much later.
That’s what happens when your league doesn’t win All-Star Games. Bobby Bonilla as sixth-most recent anything is what happens. Perhaps a generation or two of National League managers, coaches, players and whoevers who determine roster composition should have added more and healthier Mets from ’97 through ’09 and since ’13. Perhaps it’s not the fault of all the Mets who played in All-Star Games from Bobby Jones in 1997 up to and including Conforto in 2017 (excluding the Recent Six) that they couldn’t push the NL over the midsummer hump. Maybe if Michael had been joined by Jake and Jay; maybe if Olerud, Ordoñez and Ventura had gotten their due in ’99; maybe if we’d been favored with an extra Carlos — Delgado — when we packed a pretty powerful pair.
That’s it, not enough Mets. That’s why the NL doesn’t win more of those things. I’ll say that now. Nobody will remember by Friday.
The sixth-most recent National League win was in 1994. The Mets’ representative was Bret Saberhagen. He didn’t pitch. Somewhere, Terry Collins approved. Before that, you have to rewind to 1987 for a National League win, which was when Davey Johnson managed and actually used every Met he brought with him. Thus, the seventh- through tenth-most recent Mets to play for a winning NL squad were a quartet of instinctively pleasing names (more instinctively pleasing than Bobby Bonilla): Sid Fernandez, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry. It was Strawberry’s third All-Star win as a Met, Hernandez’s second. Carter won often as an Expo, but had to sit out the NL’s 1985 win with his troublesome knee; Darryl scored two runs in his absence, one for himself, one for Kid. That was the same game Dwight Gooden, who’d pitched the preceding Sunday, and Ron Darling, who Dick Williams apparently told he was too young if you believe Ronnie’s story , didn’t play, so no box score W for them.
Gooden’s only victorious appearance came amid his dazzling rookie season, 1984, when he struck out a side of American Leaguers in San Francisco and serviced notice to the National League that the second half of that season would be a summer of hell. Hernandez and Strawberry also got in on the ’84 glory. Jesse Orosco, unfortunately, did not. Jesse was named, but didn’t pitch. He pitched in 1983, striking out his only batter, but in the first harbinger that there was something askew in the universe, the American League won, 13-3.
Prior to ’83, it was generally a matter of Mets getting into All-Star Games to say they’d helped win All-Star Games, because that’s all the National League ever did. Good times. While your deGroms, Murphys and Harveys have had to suck up losses Conforto-style in actual recent years, Joel Youngblood proved an All-Star winner in 1981. Joel Youngblood couldn’t have fouled out faster as a pinch-hitter, but he played, the NL won, Joel is forever 1-0 as an All-Star. John Stearns is 3-0, named four times, actively part of a win three times. Lee Mazzilli famously homered and walked with the bases loaded in 1979 to personally ensure the NL beating the AL, 7-6. Mazz is the fourteenth-most recent Met to have played on a winning NL squad. His night in the spotlight occurred thirty-eight years ago, rendering “recent” relative.
The rest of the twenty-five All-Star winners, definitely less recent than Mazzilli, certainly a more common species in their time than ours, include Dave Kingman, Jon Matlack (twice), Jerry Grote (twice), Willie Mays (twice), Tug McGraw, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Koosman (twice), Cleon Jones, Ron Hunt (twice) and Duke Snider. The only Mets who played on losing NL squads prior to Orosco in 1983 were Buddy, who started at short in the anomalous 1971 AL win, and Richie Ashburn, for whom timing was everything…or at least conspiratorial against him.
Ashburn was named to the 1962 National League All-Star team because, as you know, every team must be represented, even a team deeply ensconced in tenth place. Not that Richie wasn’t on his way to the Hall of Fame following his retirement in ’62, going out in style with an average that reached .333 in late June. Even if he was going to the July 10 All-Star Game on behalf of the 23-59 Mets, Ashburn was not a wholly pity choice. The NL won that contest in Washington, 3-1, with Richie, like future DNPers Ed Kranepool (1965) and Pat Zachry (1978), not technically joining in on the fun. You may also know that between 1959 and 1962, two All-Star Games were played every summer to beef up the players’ pension fund. In ’62, the second was played on the North Side of Chicago, on July 30. That one Ashburn got into. That one the NL lost, 9-4, as if the Most Valuable Player of the worst team in baseball history needed an extra five-run defeat stitched onto his permanent record.
We’ve saved one winning All-Star Met for last, and appropriately he is the best. Tom Seaver was named to nine All-Star teams between 1967 and 1976. That’s nine of ten for which he was eligible (he was a little off his excellent form in ’74). National League managers had the sense to pitch Tom in six of those games, including the 1970 Classic, managed by Gil Hodges, who chose him to start. The National League was 6-0 in All-Star Games in which Tom Seaver of the Mets pitched. For that matter, the National League was 2-0 in All-Star Games in which Tom Seaver pitched as something other than a Met, but we’re still in therapy grappling with those juxtapositions. Suffice it to say that when it came to winning and Starring and All that is good, nobody was more Terrific than Tom.
You also already knew that, but now you have another way of expressing it.