National League TownAug 18, 2022
Do Wright by David
Our provincial take on the 2024 Hall of Fame election is Vote for David Wright...and maybe some or all of the other nine Mets on the writers’ ballot. The Captain is eligible for consideration for the first time after his fourteen-season career as a Met and only a Met, a span when he earned multiple honors, made multiple All-Star teams and created myriad memories. As far as National League Town is concerned, that’s worthy of serious Cooperstown conversation. We also remember the dozen seasons when the late Ron Hodges was a part of our lives, from his rookie highlight reel exploits to the distinct role he carved out as a constant of the Met catching corps across a baseball generation (44:05).
Thanks a Lot, Mets
Greg and Jeff are happy this Thanksgiving over the presence of a mascot and the absence of a narrative. They’re perfectly fine with the return of a few coaches while they sort out their feelings over the comings and goings of several players. When it comes to the prospective Las Vegas A’s, they have a hard time imagining that team succeeding as a box office attraction in an event-driven market. And if National League Town could turn back time, which World Series trophy would our hosts add to the Mets’ not exactly brimming collection? We take a trip down Almost Avenue to provide a couple of answers.
A New Voice
Did you have any idea what Carlos Mendoza sounded like before his introductory press conference? Neither did we, but now we do. That was the primary National League Town takeaway from the introduction of the Mets’ latest manager at the Mets’ latest press conference as he sat alongside the Mets’ latest general manager and told us the Mets’ latest plan is to be competitive. Now that we’ve acquainted ourselves with both Mendoza and David Stearns, Greg and Jeff wonder what the tandem might do in the months ahead to make the Mets more than competitive (15:25). We also look back at the least known remarkable pitching performance in franchise history: The Rob Gardner Game (25:49).
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
Long Island’s Own Jeff Hysen blows out a few candles and shares his birthday with Ed Kranepool and Edgardo Alfonzo, but the real November celebration could be for the hiring of Carlos Mendoza as new Mets manager. If his tenure turns into a ticker-tape party, Mets fans may be talking about him someday like Greg and Jeff are talking about Davey Johnson this week, as a Hall of Fame candidate on the latest iteration of the veterans committee ballot. National League Town also remembers the baseball life and Met times of another of our skippers, Frank Howard, a man of many nicknames and monster home runs.
Give Us a Few Moments
We know we couldn’t get from the 2023 Mets season what we wanted most, yet we carry away from this baseball year gone by a few moments that really resonated with us. Greg and Jeff each single out five games when they found being a Mets fan took on a little extra special meaning — win, lose or draw.
‘Three’ for the Road
The National League Town monthly series “It Happens in Threes” pulls into the garage after zooming ahead one more decade, to remember 2023 (75-87) in a segment short on long-term perspective, but no doubt fortified by recency bias. As could be said of 1963 (51-11), 1983 (68-94), 1993 (59-103), 2003 (66-95) and 2013 (74-88), these were not the best the best of times, but they’re the only times we got to know in Met years that ended in “3” (you gotta believe pennant-winning 1973 remains the exception to that rule of threes). Also, we thank the Phillies’ backup catcher for thinking of us at a highly unlikely moment.
Land of the Free of the Braves
BONUS EPISODE! National League Town pauses from its stare out the window/wait for spring to revel briefly in the ouster of the hated Atlanta Braves from the 2023 postseason, even if it took the hated Philadelphia Phillies to do the ousting. October hat tips are issued as well to the Diamondbacks, Astros and Rangers because, honestly, what else do we have to do other than stare out the window and wait for spring?
Who Knew? Not Us!
One week after they framed Billy Eppler’s forthcoming role in the Mets’ decision-making hierarchy; railed against Major League Baseball for endless indecisiveness regarding the outcome of a suspended game; and wished the Miami Marlins ill in their postseason endeavors, Greg and Jeff return to square some circles (Eppler’s out; the suspended game was resolved; and the Marlins swam off to sea with nary a playoff peep), and then pick over some of the scabs of a 2023 campaign that left all family business unsettled (10:25). National League Town also remembers an early Met idol who inspired allegiance that lasted a mighty long time (28:30).
Bye Buck, Hi David
The Mets showed their manager the door and welcomed aboard a new president of baseball operations. National League Town therefore wishes Buck Showalter a fond (if ultimately necessary) adieu while hoping their fellow Mets fan David Stearns will know what he’s doing for a long time to come. Greg and Jeff also try to figure out how a person could have snuck into Shea Stadium and wonder whatever became of that Mets-Marlins game whose final outcome apparently got washed away in the rain.
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.