Ten years ago today, in an otherwise meaningless spring contest, Mike Piazza charged the mound after the Dodgers’ Guillermo Mota hit the Mets’ catcher in the shoulder after having brushed him back with the previous pitch. The incident sparked a bench-clearing brawl and led Piazza to look for Mota in the visitors’ clubhouse after the game, but the right-hander had already bolted.
There was bad blood between the two even before Piazza stepped into the batter’s box. The previous spring Mota had drilled him in the hip and, one inning later, Piazza grabbed him by the collar with both hands as the two were walking off the field.
Some fans felt Piazza’s actions were too little, too late, viewing Mota as a surrogate for Roger Clemens and condemning Mike for putting his team first by not charging the mound in the 2000 World Series, an act that would have likely led to the ejection, if not suspension, of the Mets’ best offensive player.
Mets fans could have told Omar Minaya that trading for Mota to shore up the 2006 bullpen was bad karma. Too bad Mike Piazza wasn’t around in Game 2 of the NLCS that year to chase him off the mound before he threw that second fastball to Scott Spiezio, which the Cardinals’ third baseman turned into a game-tying two-run triple. The Mets went on to lose that game and, six days later, the series as well.
For a while it looked as though left-hander Dave Williams, 44 today, had won the fifth starter sweepstakes in 2006. The Mets won the first four games he started for them while posting a 3.24 with a 1.24 WHIP. His fifth start was horrible, however, as was his only start in 2007, which turned out to be his last in a major league uniform. Williams is the only Met who ever hailed from Alaska.
On July 3, 1977, infielder Shawn Gilbert, who turns 48 today, hit a solo pinch homer in the eighth inning with the Mets trailing the Marlins 10–3. He did nothing else worth mentioning as a Met. Or Cardinal. Or Dodger.
In a November 15 post we made the argument that Darryl Strawberry was the true NL MVP in 1988. Today, on the occasion of his 51st birthday, we plead our case for Darryl as MVP of the 1986 NLCS vs. the Astros. He hit the game-tying three-run homer in Game 3 and another score-knotting blast in Game 5, setting it up for walk-off heroics from Lenny Dykstra and Gary Carter, respectively. In Game 6, he drew a key walk in the ninth inning that helped send the game into extra innings and doubled to start the Mets’ three-run rally in the 16th. Also, in Game 1, which the Mets lost 1–0, Darryl singled and stole second to put himself in scoring position in the top of the ninth, but neither Mookie Wilson nor Ray Knight could bring him home.
Joe Moock, 69, was called up in September 1967 and given a chance to show why the Mets made him their number three draft pick two years earlier. He started 10 games at third base and, aside from a few big hits in three Mets victories, failed to make an impression.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Actress Barbara Feldon, who played CONTROL Agent 99 on “Get Smart,” was born on this date in 1933 and, exactly 18 years later, the comic strip character Dennis the Menace debuted. These two events have noting in common other than bringing to mind what may have been the best short relief/set-up tandem in Mets history. From 1998 through June 2001, right-hander Turk Wendell, the only Met to ever wear uniform number 99, was a smart pitcher who knew how to control game situations and lefty Dennis Cook was a menace not only to left-handed batters, but righty swingers as well.