Tag Archive for Casey Stengel

Whitey, Bay and Fernando

I fell asleep halfway through but for the first time in weeks the Mets didn’t, earning a win behind some great defensive plays and a clutch hit by of all people, Jason Bay. And just like that, they look prepared to win a few games again (as long as they can resist bunting as much as they did last night).
I was kind of saddened to hear the team designated Fernando Nieve for assignment, even though I’m sure he’ll land safely in Buffalo. But if you need an example of what’s wrong with how Jerry Manuel uses the bullpen, here’s your guy. Forced onto the team as a result of having no minor-league options, Nieve was used in the Mets’ first four games, six of their first eight, and 9 of their first 13, a completely unsustainable pace. In all he made 24 appearances with one or no days rest. He was used in short relief and long relief, in close games winning, blowouts losing, and even got a start. Predictably, his effectiveness wobbled under the workload and he went from a 100-game pace to a forgotten man in an instant, which seems a waste of a young guy with a good repertoire if some control issues. Manny Acosta was recalled from Buffalo to take his place and outfitted in the same No. 36 he wore earlier this year.
Former Met coach and director of player development, Casey Stengel disciple, and Cardinal-managing nemesis Whitey Herzog will be enshrined in Cooperstown this weekend. Richard Sandomir of the Times has a nice article today focusing on Herzog’s Mets career, quoting Keith Hernandez, Ralph Kiner … and me.

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Pelfrey, Milledge, Hillman and Chiti

The Mets’ first in-season personnel move of 2007 comes as no suprise: Mike Pelfrey 34 has been recalled from St. Lucie to take over the vacant 5th starter role while outfielder Lastings “I’ve Got to Get My Grown Man On” Milledge 44 reports to AAA New Orleans.

Worthless Bonus Fact: The Mets debuted Nos. 34 and 44 on the same memorable day, April 28, 1962.

That afternoon, in the Polo Grounds, the Mets were trailing 5-1 to the Phillies when righthander Dave Hillman took the mound for the Mets wearing 34 for the first time, and promptly surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced, Don Demeter. Hillman, a former Cubs, Red Sox and Reds pitcher, had been purchased by the Mets prior to the homestand a day before as part of their very first series of in-season roster moves. Along with Hillman was catcher Harry Chiti, famously acquired from Cleveland for a player to be named — himself, as things turned out, and Sammy Taylor, a disgruntled former Cub catcher acquired in a trade for outfielder Bobby Gene Smith. Taylor by the way was dressed in Smith’s former No. 16, making that trade the first Uni-Swap in Mets history. In addition to Smith, gone were the ancient back-up battery of former New York heroes Clem Labine 41 and Joe Ginsberg 12, who were released.

Now back to the game: Chiti, christening the No. 44 jersey, entered the in the 7th inning as a defensive replacement for Chris Cannizzaro, who had been pinch-run for while the Mets hit three home runs (by Frank Thomas, Charlie Neal and Gil Hodges) and scored an astonishing 6 runs in the bottom of the sixth, taking Hillman off the hook and giving the Mets a 7-6 lead. (Hillman was pinch-hit for that inning by Taylor, who walked and was himself pinch-run for. Casey loved that kinda stuff).

The Mets hung on for an 8-6 win, only their second of the year against 12 losses. Though Hillman was technically the pitcher of record at the time the Mets took the lead, credit for the win went to Roger Craig 38, who pitched three scoreless innings of relief to nail it down.

As Pelfrey prepares to meet the Nationals tonight, and Milledge returns to the place he started, here’s to happy first transactions.

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