National League TownJan 26, 2023
And Now, the End is Near
The 2023 Mets did it their way, and ain’t that a shame? Greg and Jeff pull up a mic and discuss not so much what went wrong, but what it was like to live through all of it going wrong. You know what they say, though: whatever lousy Mets season doesn’t kill you makes you strongly aggravated you just sat through so much dismal baseball. On the other hand, what else were we gonna do?
Days of Hope, Days of Harvey
Expectations were raised, expectations were dashed. In a nutshell, that’s been 2023 for the Mets. Still, hope springs eternal, even in the last days of a season about to end with no sign our most recent spasm of hope transformed into the success we dared expect. We can’t control what the players accomplish, yet we’ll be back to look forward to a collection of them next year doing better than they did this year. One decade ago, we had only one day in five to really look forward to, and we rode that Day for all it was worth. The “It Happens in Threes” series lands in 2013, a.k.a. Harvey Year (11:15). National League Town also takes a moment to remember the Mets fan author who preserved for us every Met day of the franchise’s first twenty years (37:45).
How We Lived With the Other Half
In 2023, everybody played everybody in the major leagues, which meant the Mets spent 46 games involved with opponents from the American League. Greg and Jeff delve into what it was like for National League fans like them to divert their focus more than ever from what they were used to. And what do the hosts of National League Town think about when they think about American League teams? We relive the entire Interleague journey of the past six months, from Oakland to Minneapolis, and everywhere in between.
Up Where They Belong
Darryl Strawberry’s 18 and Dwight Gooden’s 16 will rise to Citi Field’s rafters in 2024, rafters being one of those terms we can’t necessarily define, yet we know what it means. It means two of the players whose pictures you see in the proverbial dictionary when you look up the greatest era in New York Mets history are getting the recognition they’ve long deserved, and National League Town couldn’t be more delighted. Well, maybe we could be if we knew perennial 40-plus home run man Pete Alonso will have every opportunity to be a “forever Met” and maybe join them someday high above Flushing.
Current News: 00:15
Doc and Darryl: 22:45
Something in the Orange & Blue
Jeff is solo this week and he explains how he is dealing with this season, looks at the schedule for next season, gives his opinion of Rob Manfred’s job status, tells everybody to stop clapping their hands, and brings back one of Greg’s finest moments.
Buck Without Buzz
Of every angle that tends to entangle a team that has fallen short of great expectations, you can usually count on the future of the manager to generate a din of discourse. Yet since the trade deadline clarified that the Mets were not going to make a playoff run, all’s been quiet on the Showalter front. National League Town attempts to penetrate the silence while withstanding the stiff breeze generated by a surfeit of draft position speculation. Then Greg and Jeff open the ol’ mailbag and try to avoid paper cuts (27:40).
Embracing the Less Embraceable
Ever have your team sign an accomplished quarterback, a pedigreed coach, a dazzling shooter or a reliable lefty reliever and you weren’t thrilled because, quite frankly, you didn’t like the idea of rooting for that particular person? Funny we should ask, as Greg and Jeff are talking about the kind of adjustment a fan sometimes makes in the name of hoping your team wins more games. In 2003, the Mets constituted something of a test case in this regard, and didn’t win many games, but they left behind some intriguing memories, which National League Town explores this week in It Happens in Threes (14:50).
From Coma to Catharsis
The Mets have played dead, and National League Town can’t bring them back to life, but Greg and Jeff are more than happy to talk each other (and their siblings) through the dog days of this most brutal summer. Are we having any seller’s remorse? Are we rewriting history on the fly to suggest that if only we’d stood pat, we’d be coming on strong in the Wild Card scramble? Are we still going to the ballpark? And are we not entertained? We have few definitive answers, but we’re always willing to pose a few questions.
Greg and Jeff get together in the post-trade deadline world and exchange ideas over where the Mets are going now that they’ve made deal after deal after deal. What legacy does Max Scherzer leave behind? What was Justin Verlander even doing here? How successful will the Steve Cohen Draft turn out to be? And how many euphemisms do baseball people throw around? National League Town puzzles out some answers that might prove right, might prove wrong, and will definitely take a while to prove either way.
Tool Boxes are for Everybody
Run. Field. Throw. Hit. Hit with power. You know them as the five tools, or what we want to see out of every ballplayer for whom we root. But what about us? How’s our game? National League Town considers what it takes to be a Five-Tool Fan, with Greg and Jeff asking themselves if they have enough of the right stuff to excel at baseball, albeit in the stands or on the couch. Our co-hosts identify the skills they think they bring to the proverbial table and identify areas where they think they could be doing a better job. Hey, if we’re gonna ask the Mets to the be the best they can be, we oughta try to do the same.
Good Conduct (and the Other Kind)
National League Town heads out to the ballpark and looks to commend fellow fans for doing things the right way...but winds up doing a little more tut-tutting than planned. C’mon, people: get your acts together! Greg and Jeff have a few things to say about section captains, foul ball peer pressure, and plate appearance decorum. One team that had its own ideas about suitable conduct was the 1993 Mets; sadly, they chose to conduct their season in seventh place. We look back thirty years in our “It Happens In Threes” series and try to glean the fine amid the fetid (19:20).
Doth Thy Second Half Hath Hope?
Going into the All-Star break, the Mets’ season looked broken. Can they put it back together in the 72 games remaining? National League Town will accept any glint of light that will allow them to discern a hint of hope. Maybe inspiration is to be had from Pete Alonso’s and Kodai Senga’s team winning the All-Star Game, a big boost for all fans of the NL (a.k.a. the ones in the dark pants). Maybe a long-term solution will emerge from a pitching-rich draft or a clever deadline acquisition. Or maybe our minds will wander to Odd Couple allusions.
Although Pete Alonso is the Mets’ only All-Star in 2023, National League Town salutes Steve Cohen’s stellar performance in his recent press conference, where he made himself available and positioned himself as accountable, even if concrete answers to what ailed the Mets in June were hard to articulate. On the sunnier side of Seaver Way, the Black Cat is spotted; not even Gabe Kapler can delay the next train to London; and what’s all this fuss about daft picks? Isn’t it hard enough to be daft without being picked on? (Sorry, that’s DRAFT picks — never mind!)
Second Chance All-Star Team
Special Commentary: Fire Buck Showalter
In this Special Commentary, Jeff explains why Buck must be fired as the Manager of the New York Mets.
Advice for the Mets
“Play better” covers most of what Greg and Jeff have to say to the thus far flailing 2023 Mets, but because they’re fans, they take apart the pitching, the hitting, the fielding, the thinking, the managing and everything that has contributed to this monstrosity of a disappointment and try to figure out if there’s any hope in there. But mostly, Mets: play better.
Then the Fun Started
If it was the worst of times, it wouldn’t have been much different from what had been going on for a while. If it was the best of times, it had a funny way of showing it in the standings. From the perspective of 40 years later, it was probably more than a little of each. Welcome to 1983, when Met past, Met present and Met future blended. We remember one of the most pivotal seasons in Mets history in our series It Happens in Threes, focusing on a campaign when the Mets were both pretty lousy and extremely promising, and the characters who populated the team still stand out in memory. National League Town also tries to fill the NL All-Star team with Mets and attempts to make the MLB All-Star Game watchable.
All-Star Game: 00:15
"Jeff's Brilliant Idea": 13:15
NLT Mailbag: 51:15
National League Town is up on its feet and joining Citi Field in a standing ovation for the New York Mets Hall of Fame ceremonies, even furtively clapping inside the press conference room and press box where we otherwise maintain professional decorum (00:20). So happy are Greg and Jeff to have watched Gary Cohen, Howie Rose, Al Leiter and Howard Johnson inducted into the Met Hall in 2023, they are getting ahead of the crowd and announcing their own nominations for the Class of 2024 — two players National League Town has talked up before, two players National League Town could have mentioned sooner (47:30). We also pay tribute to the franchise’s very first pitcher; remember one of The Franchise’s first very first catchers; and bump into the brother of another Met of yore while waiting for a train (1:10:00).
Walk a Mile in Their Spikes
Now batting, now pitching, now broadcasting for the New York Mets: human beings. It might be helpful to remember those are people on the mound, at the plate or behind the mic. You are not legally required to bring empathy to a ballgame, but National League Town believes it doesn’t hurt to pack a little and keep it within reach, especially as a given season’s frustrations mount. And if you are going to a ballgame, it would be hard to pick a more glorious venue than Coors Field, regardless of inglorious results (14:15). Grab a beverage and take in our on-site report from Denver...then grab another and join us in toasting the incoming New York Mets Hall of Fame Class of 2023 — Howard Johnson, Al Leiter, Howie Rose and Gary Cohen (20:30).
A Cool Breeze, A Hot Breakfast
There’s nothing quite like a Mets team emerging from its morass just in time for summer. Some years, a late May/early June turnaround will catapult the club clear to October. Other years, it simply makes for an enduring, joyful, perhaps Magical memory. Where will the 2023 Mets and their recent spate of pulse-quickening victories land? That’s to be determined — much as every night’s game story waits to be written and every off-day’s delivery of the Pancake Triple Play waits to be devoured (32:00). Hope you brought a hearty appetite for baseball talk to National League Town.
You Still Gotta Believe
National League Town could come up with more than few choice words to describe the first quarter of the season, and Greg and Jeff surely do (4:30), but when a year like 2023 starts getting us down, we turn our attention to a year that can’t help but lift our spirits. In the latest edition of our series It Happens in Threes (18:00), we direct our attention to 1973, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of perhaps the most improbable pennant run any team anywhere has stitched together. By the time you’re done listening, you’ll be convinced those Mets won it all. Also, we deliver an on-site report from the Mets’ recent visit to Washington, featuring an endless rain delay, ample stocks of food and drink, and an unexpected celebrity cameo.
Two Pitchers Too Good To Be True
Each was the talk of baseball. Each gripped the attention of New York. Each was on the mound in the ninth inning of the deciding game of the World Series. Neither appeared to be ever quite the same after his most glaring moment in the spotlight. Both were Mets pitchers whose stories were captured in movie form. One was Matt Harvey, the subject of a 2015 ESPN documentary (and so much more) at the height of his fame (11:20). The other was Diego Vasquez, a figure invented for the Metscentric 2023 Hallmark Channel film Hearts in the Game (29:40) Harvey recently ended his meteoric major league career by retiring. Vasquez recently found true love — it is the Hallmark Channel, after all. National League Town brings out both larger-than-life pitchers for a well-deserved curtain call.
When the Mets reached .500 in May of 1969, it was cause to take heart in how far the ballclub had come. When the Mets reached .500 in May of 2023, it was cause to wonder what’s gone wrong. It’s a different time with different expectations, a state of affairs coloring National League Town’s discussion of the currently not great, not terrible (but lately more terrible than great) Mets. What’s Comerica Park like, besides not so good for Max Scherzer suddenly? An eyewitness report indicates the Tigers are gracious hosts when they’re not rudely sweeping the visiting team off the field. National League Town also shares a few thoughts in response to a national columnist who scoffs at Mets fans’ admittedly nervous nature; revisits a few observations that are now old enough to vote; and remembers the first truly promising young pitcher to light up Shea.
Fans Being Fans
We’re a little dissatisfied with an above-average road trip. We’re a touch impatient with an inconsistent offense. We’re underwhelmed with the starting pitching depth that has thus far presented its shallower side. We’re prone to bouts of moodiness and misery. We lack faith in the governing body of baseball and its appointed agents. We’re aghast at how much it costs to park at a ballgame and can’t blame anybody who doesn’t want to sit and shiver outside in April. We can’t even fondly remember one of the slugging icons of our youth without explicitly identifying his shortcomings. Yet we love our Mets. Sometimes this is how we express it.
[Expansion, 20:30; Dave Kingman, 35:50]
Sweat, Rosin and Whatever It Takes
Max Scherzer was ejected from the Mets’ final game in Los Angeles for having on his right hand what the pitcher said was perfectly legal sweat and rosin. Perhaps next time he’ll see if spit and vinegar meets with the umpires’ approval. Whatever substances were involved, the Mets got their California adventure off to an excellent start, running up a 17-6 score in Oakland, which is something you don’t see every day (even if you can’t help but see that horrible uniform advertising patch). In case 2023 isn’t eventful enough for you, National League Town introduces the "It Happens in Threes" anniversary segment that this week will take you back 60 years to the days of banners, placards and Jimmy Breslin.
Unicorn Wins: 2:25
Patch commentary: 14:00
It Happens in Threes (1963): 15:30
We’ve Grown Accustomed to Its Pace
For a week, 2023 loomed as the Year of the Pitch Clock. After two weeks, maybe we started getting used to it. Baseball’s ability to inject a foreign object into the game’s bloodstream and make you think there’s nothing unusual about it is unsurpassed. Before we know it, perhaps we won’t notice those enormous advertising patches on the Met uniform sleeves, either (yet somehow be overcome by an uncontrollable urge to visit a certain hospital). Greg and Jeff also share their thoughts on the historical bookends of Mets catching, Francisco Alvarez and Hobie Landrith (26:06)
It's Been One Week
The first seven days of the Mets’ season have been put in the books, with four of them preferably printed on perforated paper. Alas, National League Town knows that onto every year a little rain must fall (and that was before this podcast’s hosts learned the Home Opener would be postponed by impending precipitation). Wet or dry, the starting pitching needs to wring itself out; reservations run rampant regarding bullpen usage; and what happened to all the hitting en route from Miami to Milwaukee? On the plus side, Greg and Jeff find an excuse to talk about both Bob Murphy and Daniel Murphy, which for us is like finding the afikoman. Happy Passover, Happy Easter and Happy Recaps to all.
Another Opening, Another Show
Happy New Year from National League Town! Next season is now this season with the first of many games getting played, so no wonder Greg and Jeff are bubbling over with excitement. We look all over the diamond at the Mets we expect to see soon and a few of the Mets we expect to see eventually; we deliver, broadly and specifically, a sense of where we think the Mets are heading in 2023; and we even let the spirit of the Ol’ Perfesser inhabit the show for a spell. It’s Opening Day, followed by the next days, all of them with Mets baseball. Who could ask for anything more?
Tournament of Poses
The World Baseball Classic was played to wide acclaim, but forgive National League Town if we’re not joining the chorus of media voices insisting the 2023 WBC was the greatest thing since sliced pepperoni. With Edwin Diaz’s patellar tendon a casualty of a postgame celebration we can’t imagine having taken place amid players going through admittedly humdrum Grapefruit League routines, let’s just say a little humdrum goes a long way in setting up your ninth innings. Greg and Jeff take their stab at ironing out WBC’s kinks; wonder how the closing of Mets games is going to proceed when there won’t be any trumpets blowing; and, as always, hope for the best. NL Town also cranes its neck for a peek inside Citi Field’s ritzy new club and pauses (36:00) to remember the late Jesus Alou.
Turn and Embrace the Strange
Change is in the baseball air this spring, and some of it is no doubt daunting to lifelong fans who fell in love with what seemed like a perfect game as kids. Then again, as Greg and Jeff will attest, change has always loomed over the game we’ve thought of as “ours,” and we’ve never necessarily welcomed it with open arms. Yet somehow, some changes set in to our satisfaction. On this episode of National League Town, we remember what was once new and a little scary and consider how a good bit of it made the sport we love better.
A Taste of Spring
Ghost Runners and the Great Beyond
As we grapple with the permanent implementation of the unnatural placement of a runner on second to start the tenth inning (and any inning that accidentally occurs thereafter), we look for ways to make the rule designed to cut games off at their knees more palatable — and we pay homage to what life was like in “real” extra innings, when you had no idea when a game might reach resolution. You know, before the “Manfred Man” began trampling on intermittent marathon madness. National League Town also fondly remembers one of the most influential voices in Mets and baseball history, Tim McCarver (20:09)
Do You Know the Way to St. Lucie?
Extra Cinematic Innings
In our previous episode, we shared National League Town’s Favorite Baseball Movies. In the sequel, we talk about the films that constitute our viewing experience’s bench strength. They’re the baseball movies we like a lot if don’t wholly love; the baseball movies we like enough to keep watching as long as a game isn’t on; the movies with just enough baseball in them to merit our attention; and maybe a baseball movie we don’t ever need to see again.
The Balcony Is Open
With Pitchers & Catchers still a little ways away, that means it’s time for Directors & Actors. National League Town turns its attention to its Favorite Baseball Movies, as Greg and Jeff take turns counting down the five films that most put them in the mood to bolt from the theater and toward the ballpark. Like baseball itself, these are movies that make us laugh, make us cry, make us think and make us want to keep watching.
Party of Five
National League Town celebrates the announcement of a quintet of new entries for the Mets Hall of Fame: Inductees Al Leiter, Howard Johnson, Gary Cohen and Howie Rose along with Hall of Fame Achievement Award Winner Jay Horwitz. Greg and Jeff recall what made Al of the most important pitchers the Mets have ever had; how Hojo made himself into a superstar; why Gary and Howie emerged as the ideal heirs to legacy established by the franchise’s original announcers; all that Jay has done to elevate the organization; and consider the role Steve Cohen continues to play in putting Met history front and center.
Al Leiter: 4:48
Howard Johnson: 12:17
Gary Cohen: 20:24
Howie Rose: 28:31
Jay Horwitz: 39:29
The Dog Days of Winter
As if signing Tommy Pham isn’t enough to get a Mets fan through the January doldrums, National League Town presents an invitation for Scott Boras to grab a bite; some timeless advice regarding audio cassettes and ticket stubs; a call for day baseball every day; and a couple of voices from Jersey determined to set us straight about baseball in the Garden State. We also pay tribute to a true Met legend, the Original Frank Thomas.
"The Greg Commandments": 3:42
"Jeff's Brilliant Idea": 19:39
We remember Frank Thomas: 22:08
Listener Mail: 33:47
Expanding Our Horizons
It’s been 25 years since Major League Baseball added any teams. Perhaps we’re overdue for some new company. National League Town thinks out loud about what modern expansion might look like, where relocation might come to pass, what we want out of a bigger MLB and, ultimately, how any seismic changes might affect us as Mets fans. New franchises? New cities? New divisions? A new league? For the sake of conversation, it’s all within the realm of possibility.
Swoop, There He's Not
No deal got done, no games were played and only questions are left in his wake, but the Carlos Correa Era in Flushing was a heckuva time for every Mets fan who lived through it. Greg and Jeff get together to remember it as well as they can, from that day in December it was reported Correa was about to become a Met (physical pending), to that day in January it was reported Correa was instead about to resume being a Twin (physical pending). What happened? What happens next? Who knows anything anymore — other than somebody who’s not Carlos Correa will be playing third base for the New York Mets in 2023. Of that we’re sure...we think.
One Last Glance Back
The year we just lived in has suddenly become history. How will we remember 2022? We start 2023 by taking our first shot at putting last season in a little historical perspective. Greg and Jeff pick their bests and not-so-goods from the year that came up something short of satisfying yet has to rank as one of the ten best a Mets team has ever put in the books. Also, we hear what a few of the Mets who’ve been coming and going have had to say as the doorway to our near future opens wide.
Sometimes a Fantasy is All You Need
Have you ever been or thought about going to a New York Mets fantasy camp? Mets fan Kerby Valladares just went and he joins National League Town to tell Greg and Jeff what it’s all about down in Port St. Lucie. Kerby takes listeners through the entire process of trying to become a better hitter and a better fielder while trying not to be starstruck that he is learning his craft from coaches who, in the course of an unforgettable week, morph into more than pictures on baseball cards or names from box scores.
Big Hall Guys
Just in time for the holidays, National League Town reconvenes its New York Mets Hall of Fame review process and confirms its previous verdict that a lot — A LOT — more Mets and Mets figures deserve plaques in that charming room off the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Greg and Jeff revive their initial 2022 discussions on the Mets HOF with a fresh introduction and the hope that in the new year, we will see more Mets inducted where they belong.
THE NOMINEES (and time stamps):
Early Mets: Ron Hunt, Frank Thomas, Jay Hook, Roger Craig, Joe Christopher, 6:21
Ron Hunt, 12:31
Ron Swoboda, 14:30
Felix Millan, 17:09
Jesse Orosco, 20:00
Sid Fernandez, 21:16
David Wright, 23:09
Bobby Valentine, 25:45
Tim McCarver, 27:54
Gary Cohen & Howie Rose, 29:50
Carlos Beltran, 37:31
John Olerud, 43:28
Daniel Murphy, 45:26
Howard Johnson, 49:26
Benny Agbayani, 52:39
Lee Mazzilli, 55:41
Jose Reyes, 58:16
Al Leiter, 1:06:29
Donn Clendenon, 1:09:31
Ray Knight, 1:12:16
David Cone, 1:17:50
R.A. Dickey, 1:21:38
Swoop, There He Is
Just when you think one of the free agent apples of Steve Cohen’s eye has eluded his grasp, the owner of the New York Mets swoops in and grabs Carlos Correa, the multifaceted star shortstop the San Francisco Giants had all but signed to an enormous contract. “All but” is the key phrase here, which is why Correa is headed to the Flushing Bay area instead of the one out west. Is Correa fully physically fit? Is a dozen-year commitment wise? Can he master third base despite never having played it before? Greg and Jeff attempt to blend ecstasy with reality in an episode they didn’t realize was going to be necessary.
Everywhere a Signing
When Steve Cohen owns your favorite baseball team, you come to expect moves will be made in the offseason. Still, expectations are getting surpassed all the time this offseason, with free agent contracts for — deep breath — Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, Brandon Nimmo, David Robertson and Kodai Senga having fallen into place between a Monday and a Saturday (on the seventh day, Steve rested). National League Town approves this barrage. Greg and Jeff also tip a cap to a former Met closer making his Hall of Fame ballot debut (23:21) and wonder what to do with their erstwhile ace swag (33:23).
Jacob who? National League Town is suddenly all about likely Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. And former All-Star Jose Quintana. And lefty reliever Brooks Raley, even. The Mets are stocking up on pitchers who weren’t here last year now that Jacob deGrom has departed and Taijuan Walker has walked. Greg and Jeff are rolling out the welcome wagon for all of them. Also welcome: the opportunity to honor the memory of Gil Hodges and the great alumni relations work of Jay Horwitz at this winter’s Queens Baseball Convention. NLT has a special report from QBC (18:30).
The End of Jake's Era
UPDATED with the Justin Verlander signing! For better (which you can rationalize) or worse (which you can feel in your bones), Jacob deGrom is no longer a New York Met. National League Town processes the news; remembers the highlights of an unparalleled nine-year run in Flushing; wonders if there were more than 185 million reasons the Simple Man decided to move on; and tries to think about who could replace one of the greatest starting pitchers the Mets have ever called their own.
It’s the Time Between Seasons
December’s arrival indicates the Baseball Equinox is nigh. How nigh? Listen in and find out how soon we will reach the exact midpoint between the end of the previous season and the beginning of the forthcoming season — or when “next” year becomes “this” year (19:19) Also, Greg and Jeff attempt to put the Met career of non-tendered Dom Smith in perspective; wonder who besides Drew Smith will fill most of the bullpen roles (00:30); take apart the Manfredian machinations of the 2023 schedule (24:07); and salute Dave Hillman, the Met who lived longer than any other (36:31).
Detecting Some Winners
Kevin Chapman, author of the Mike Stoneman series of thrillers, joins National League Town (30:23) to a offer glimpse inside his latest book, Dead Winner, and respond to speculation about why Detective Stoneman conveniently happens to be a Mets fan. Might it have something to do with Kevin being the same? Greg and Jeff also celebrate National League Manager of the Year Buck Showalter (00:27); revel in the new documentary examining the life of Willie Mays (12:48); and remember a ballplayer like few others of his time, the late Chuck Carr (22:08).
The Mets wasted no time securing the services of Edwin Diaz as their closer for several more years, and Greg and Jeff waste no time exchanging verbal high-fives over the club’s decision to act quickly. Now, they ask, what about their starter of starters Jacob deGrom? If Jake’s opt-out leads to the almost unthinkable, you’re not gonna believe what that does to one particular category within the annals of Met starting pitching. With pitching so much on our minds, it’s no wonder we also wonder aloud who’s gonna do the bulk of the catching in 2023.
A Less Than Classic Fall
The same postseason that once included the Mets plows ahead to the Fall Classic, where a team the Mets beat 14 of 19 times and finished 14 games behind the Mets will represent the National League — not that we’re hung up on all that feels off this autumn. Nevertheless, Greg and Jeff attempt to make sense of the aftermath of the Mets’ October shortfall; decide whether the trade for Edwin Diaz was absolutely worth it; compile Steve Cohen’s immediate agenda items; and preview the World Series through the prism of ex-Mets pitchers who are now Phillies and Astros.