Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Fan Club

            I had the opportunity to attend the Mets Opening Day in 1984, so I went with my buddy Squig. (Not his real name, in case you were wondering) 1984 was to be a fateful year for us.
            I think that school was out for Easter, but I couldn't swear to it. I do know that Ron Darling started the game, and it wasn't a pretty one. the Expos won 10-0, so it was not a good omen for the upcoming season, or so we thought.
            Davey Johnson had just taken the helm of the Mets after spending the previous year managing the Tidewater Tides in the International League, winning 71 games. That spring, he got to witness the phenom that was Dwight Gooden.
            Doc had torn up the Carolina League in 1983, striking out 300 batters in 191 innings, winning 19 games along the way for the Lynchburg Mets.  He was eighteen years old, and he would go on to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 1984, setting several new records along the way.
            I won't go into the description of the subway ride from our homes in Woodhaven to Shea Stadium, but suffice it to say that the subway conductor wasn't going to be forgetting us any time soon. Essentially, on the G train, Squig and I would change seats between each of the stops. It took five or six stops before he noticed what we were doing, and at first confusion led to slight annoyance, then to what I believe was admiration for our perseverance. I think as we got to our stop, Squig may have even tipped him.
          We finally got to the stadium, about an hour or so before game time. As we were taking in the sights and festivities around us, we both noticed one of the coaches (we knew this because it was the eighties, and he was wearing a number in the 50's) half limping, half walking towards the bullpen. We reached for our scorecard and looked him up:
51- Vern Hoscheit.

            Squig and I had not heard of him prior to that, (remember kiddos, this was before the Google was available) but there was something almost lyrical about the name. Vern Hoscheit.
            A little while later, as they introduced both teams, when they introduced "Number 51, bullpen coach Vern Hoscheit", both Squig and I screamed out "VERN!!" Nobody else did anything else apart from polite home team applause.
            Like I said, the game itself wasn't anything to be proud of, except for noting that Gary Carter hit a Grand Slam homer in the game. The commute home was interesting enough, inasmuch as when we were getting on the G Train, who should we have as our conductor? Yep. The same one from earlier. And yes, he did remember us.

            A few times that summer, a summer which was turning into a somewhat magical summer for many teams and many reasons, we would hear a reference to Vern on a radio broadcast, or a telecast and each of us would yell "Vern!" no matter where we were at the time we heard it. (Yes, we got a lot of stares)      
            Then, I had an idea.
            Sitting on the stoop in front of my house one evening, I told Squig, "You know, if we started a Vern Hoscheit Fan Club, and made like a banner, and took it to a game, they'd probably show us on TV."
            There was a very long pause as Squig looked at me, I could see the wheels spinning, and he finally said, "You know what, it just might work."
            And the plan was hatched.

            The Mets were on their way to their second 90 win season, with the Gooden show being the must have ticket, combined with the Mets being in playoff contention until the last week of the season, made getting tickets more of a challenge than had been the case in the previous years. But we muddled ahead and picked the last Saturday game of the season, also against the Expos. That was our debut.
            By this time, I had my drivers license, so we didn't have to rely on the subways to get us to the game. It also meant we could get to the stadium as early as we wanted. (Too early as it turned out, they wouldn't let us in at 11:00 for a 2:05 game, so we bided our time.         
            We had masks, one Groucho mask and one giant insect mask, both provided by Squig, and both ungodly hot and uncomfortable to wear. I had the banner, or rather, one of my mother's white bed sheets with the words "Vern Hoscheit Fan Club, Vern is God" hand lettered, badly at that, in black spray paint. (Not to pat myself on the back here, but all the words were spelled correctly) We also had navy blue t-shirts with red felt iron-on lettering which said "Vern is God" on the front, and "The Vern Hoscheit Fan Club" in smaller letters on the back. We looked awesome.

            When they finally let us in, we ran up to our seats, which were on the railing in the upper deck, the two seats on the foul side of the foul pole. The Mets were still taking batting practice, and we immediately donned the masks and unfurled the banner and started yelling to get their attention.
            Below us, Ron Darling and Darryl Strawberry were shagging flies in right field when they looked up at us and started laughing. Pointing and laughing, if truth be told. They hollered over to some of the other guys, and then there were a bunch of players pointing and laughing at us. Ron Darling then tossed us a baseball, and pointed towards second base, where the man himself was gathering baseballs in a bucket for the BP pitcher. He saw us and waved at us.
            It was awesome.

            So we settled down to await the start of the game, about an hour or so away, and tried to plot when the best time to walk with the banner was. We both agreed that later in the game was better, not sure why, but it made sense to us. As we were chatting away, Vern started making his way to the bullpen, lumbering towards our spot, so we jumped up again and unfurled the banner again. he waved and smiled back up at us.
            Man, this was more awesome.

            So as we get into the game, fifth or sixth inning, we is the time. We are going to walk the banner. So our plan was to start in the row in the far right field stands, and walk to the other side, the left field stands. We start, only to be stopped by a stadium guard, who tells us that we can't carry a banner like that while the ball is in play. But there was about to be a pitching change, so we could do it then.
            As Jim Fanning marched to the mound to bring in Randy St. Claire, Squig and I began our march to left field. With one eye on the Diamondvision screen, looking for ourselves, and listening to a chorus of "Who the Hell is that?" we made our way from post to post. Satisfied with the job we had done, we rewarded ourselves with a hot dog and a Coke and returned to our seats to finish watching the game.
            Then, out of nowhere, between innings, the Mets bullpen door opens, and out comes Vern, headed our way again. As we were about to unfurl again, he motions for us to go back into the stands, along the walkway that overlooks the bullpen, and he would meet us there.
            Awesome strikes again.

            We go back there and we have a few words, he asks if we were for real, and where we got the shirts and could we get him one. We asked if he could sign our ball, which he did. And we made a promise to stay in touch, which we most definitely did.
                                    (I still have the ball to this day, picture taken 3/31/2021)

            The game ended, the Mets won, and we were very excited as we drove home. A little bummed that we weren't on TV, but we got a ball, and autograph, and a chance to talk with Vern, if only for a few minutes. Then we got home, and found out something we didn't know. the TV feed that is broadcast is NOT the same feed that is on Diamondvision. We had made it to TV, and it was awe...uh..great!
            But some background information first here. Sometimes, as you follow a particular team, you have certain players that you develop an affinity for. Guys that you want to see do well, get that clutch hit. Not the big stars, but the guy that starts maybe once a week. Maybe rides that pine as a pinch-hitter.
            Conversely, sometimes there may be a player that you can't stand. Sometimes nor reasons that my not be particularly rational. You just hate seeing this guy get up to bat or being called in to pitch in relief. Whatever. For me, Roger Cedeno fell into that category. For Squig, it was Ron Hodges.
            Squig was known to unload a stream of expletives whenever Hodges was put into a game. All hope was lost whenever he saw Hodges by the bat rack. We had been to a nail-biter against these same Expos in early April as well and they had a lead going into the ninth. The Mets pushed across 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, helped by a crucial pinch-hit walk by that same Ron Hodges. When Wally Backman then doubled batting right handed (a rarity for him) poor Squig was beside himself with joy and anger.
            So, fast forward to our awesome day, and Squig goes back and watches the video tape and sees us. And I was right, not only did they show us, the announcers also poked a little bit of fun at us as well. The bullpen TV plays the TV feed as well, so as they are showing us maneuvering our way through the crowd, the camera cuts to the bullpen, where they know Vern is, and you can see a slight commotion as one of the Mets players pushes Vern out to accept the glory of his newly found fan club.

                                      the Vern Hoscheit Fan Club

            Anyone want to take a guess at what Mets player it was the pushed Vern out?
            Ron Hodges.

            Over the next little bit, with a little bit of detective work, and some lucky breaks, we were able to get in contact with Vern by telephone on a few occasions. (This was when you had to pay extra for long distance). I spent about twenty minutes one evening speaking with his lovely wife.
            Squig and I sent him a Fudgy the Whale ice-cream cake (from Carvel) for his birthday in 1985. (April 1st in case you were interested)

            After the Mets won the World Series in 1986, we called Vern during the off season and he told us that if we made it to spring training, he would buy us dinner one night. So we took him up on it. In fact, that's what he wrote in the Christmas card he sent:

            The Mets were training in St. Petersburg that year, the last before moving to Port St. Lucie. Since it was Spring Break ( a concept Squig and I were unfamiliar with) the nearest hotel we could get was in Clearwater. But that was OK by us. We caught a couple of games. We made arrangements to meet with Vern after an exhibition game against the Cardinals, meeting him in the lobby of the Marriott, where we watched and listened to the legendary Bob Murphy interviewing the legendary Lindsay Nelson.
            Vern took us to a little Italian restaurant and we had a good meal, a great conversation, and enough anecdotes and story for a lifetime. He told us that during the post game team meeting he was trying to rush Davey Johnson along, and Davey jokingly asked if Vern had a date. To which Vern replied, "I'm taking my Fan Club out to dinner"
            (imagine a clubhouse full of snickering at this point)
            To which Davey asks' "Do you have enough money? Do you need a little money?"
            Bill Robinson, the Mets first-base coach said, "No, he don't need any money. There ain't but two of them".
            (imagine even more laughter at this point).

            I was happy to have met Vern and am grateful for the evening he spent with two bozos from Woodhaven.

            Vern shared a few great stories, some of which I will probably share on these postings from time to time. Vern has 4 World Series rings, two from the Oakland A's, and one each from the Mets and the Orioles. He worked with Casey Stengel, was one of Lou Piniella's earliest professional managers, and seemed to have winning ball-clubs on his resume.
            When former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, the first non-family member that he thanked was Vern, who was his first manager in professional ball. 

        In June, 2007, I received this e-mail:

I just wanted to let you know that Vern passed away June 11th, 2007.  Your fan club meant a lot to Vern, it was something he was proud of. 

    Thank You, Billy Ray Hoscheit

        No, Thank You... 

PS Thanks to Squig for the pictures and the video

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Keeping With a Theme...1973

            1973 seemed to be a season where no team wanted to win.
            Okay. that's not true.
            The National League East was the division that had the tightest race, going down to the last day of the season, and then some, before crowning a winner.
            The American League races were pretty tame, with the Orioles and A's winning their respective divisional crowns. The Orioles finding first place for good in early August coasted to an eight game win over the Boston Red Sox; The defending World Champion A's held off the charging young Kansas City Royals by six games, leading the division from August 16th.
            Over in the National League, the Big Red Machine was getting into gear, but were still able to repeat as NL West Champions, hitting first place on Labor Day, and holding off the Dodgers to win by three and a half games.           
            Which brings us to my beloved Mets. On August 30th, they were in last place in the division, but just six and a half games back at that point. They had been as far back as twelve games in July. The "Ya Gotta Believe" team, about which manager Yogi Berra philosophized "It ain't over 'til its over" went on a tear, winning twenty-one of their last thirty to claim the pennant on a rainy afternoon at Wrigley Field, where the Mets and Cubs were scheduled to play a make up doubleheader. (The Mets won the first game negating the need for the second game)
            Led by Tom Seaver in his Cy Young season, the Mets won eighty-two games that year, and thanks to divisional play, made the playoffs and then the World Series. The Mets, who coincidentally were the first ever National League East champions in 1969, would have finished in no better than fourth place if the divisional play had not been instituted.
            Pitching was a bit more prevalent in the National League at the time, which led to the American League's instituting the Designated Hitter rule for the 1973 season. (Hello, Ron Blomberg) The pitcher's that dominated this year pretty much dominated the entirety of the '70s. Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan all had very good seasons. No really substantial offensive numbers happened this year. Rod Carew won the AL batting title by hitting .350, forty-four points above the next runner-up (George "Boomer" Scott and Tommy Davis both hit .306) No American Leaguer scored more than one hundred runs that year, Reggie Jackson led with ninety-nine. But the A's did have four players that scored eighty-nine or more.
            Nolan Ryan set the record for strikeouts, three hundred eighty-three, while pitching the first two no-hitters of his career. There were eleven pitchers in the AL that won twenty or more games, Wilbur Wood paced the league with twenty-four. But this isn't uncommon. There were quite a few pitchers that were still able to pitch three hundred or more innings.
            The National League did have a better year offensively.
            The "Launching Pad" that was Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium hosted the first ever trio of forty home run teammates (Hank Aaron, Darrell Evans and Davey Johnson. Evans would be the first to hit forty homers in both leagues topping that mark with the Tigers in 1984 as well)
            Willie (not yet "Pops") Stargell collected a .646 Slugging Percentage while hitting forty-four homers and driving in one hundred nineteen runs. In fact, there were seven National Leaguers that scored one hundred runs or more. Two unlikely players, from the same unlikely team, led the NL in On Base Percentage. Ron Fairly was at .422 just behind Expo teammate Ken Singleton's .425.
            None of the NL pitchers logged more than three hundred innings, and Cy Young Award winner Tom Seaver led the league with a 2.08 ERA. Only lefty Ron Bryant of the Giants was able to notch twenty wins that season.

            As I mentioned before, the Mets made it to the World Series, beating the Reds on the National League Championship Series three games to two, in a Series that is probably most remembered for the fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose at second base.
            The A's dispatched the Orioles handily in the American League Series three ganes to two, setting up the Mets-A's Series and the last post-season appearance of the great Willie Mays. The "Say Hey Kid' was at the end of his playing days, and was relegated to just a handful of appearances in the post-season. His final season numbers are nothing of note.
            The other thing that seems to have endured in memories from the 1973 World Series involved A's second baseman Dick Green. <>

            In something that I will cover at a later date, I was able to meet and have a few conversations with a baseball lifer named Vern Hoscheit. Among the many jobs that Vern held in baseball was bullpen coach for the Oakland A's during the early 1970's.
            Charley O. Finley purchased the Athletics franchise while they were still in Kansas City. Through many trials and tribulations, he moved the team to Oakland for the 1968 season, prompting U.S. Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri in an appeal to AL President Joe Cronin, to pronounce that "Oakland is the luckiest city since Hiroshima".
            Charley Finley wanted a winning team, and a winning situation, and despite his reputation as a tightwad, could be very generous to his players. But Charley was Charley.
            Vern told me a story of the day in 1971 that the A's won their one-hundreth game of the season, that Charley had placed a one hundred dollar bill in each and every locker after the game. When they won the hundred and first game, there was a one dollar bill in each locker.
            The A's won the World Series in 1972, beating the A's in a classic match-up of pitching, power and strategy, including a phantom intentional walk to Johnny Bench. The A's Championship ring was by all accounts, gorgeous. Standard gold with a kelly green stone, diamond inlaid in the center, in the shape of a baseball diamond, and Charley's famous equation etched on the side S+S=S. (Sweat + Sacrifice = Success)
            At the beginning of the 1973 season, as Finley was distributing the rings, he said something to the effect of 'win this year guys, and I'll make this ring look like a dime store ring'.
            After Dick Green made two errors in the playoffs, he made his third of the post-season in Game 4, Finley essentially tried to 'fire' Green and replace him on the roster with rookie second baseman Manny Trillo. The Mets protested, rightly so, and the A's tried to get Green to admit to a physical ailment. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn got involved, as he often did with Finley and his antics, and decreed that essentially, the roster was set before the series. If Green was injured, that was unfortunate, but Trillo, or any other player could not be added to the post-season roster. 
            As the Series played out, and the A's won their second of three consecutive titles, the bitterness that Finley had over the Dick Green situation, combined with several other factors, including manager Dick Williams resigning at the conclusion of the Series, the Yankees signing of Williams, and the maelstrom that created, when World Series Ring time came around, the gaudiness was also gone. The 1973 A's World Series ring, while still impressive, was essentially a generic championship ring.
            He did make up for it in 1974 though.

            So, on to the season's performances.

            In the official AL MVP Voting, the top vote getters were:
            Reggie Jackson           OAK               32HR  117RBI .293AVG     
            Jim Palmer                   BAL                22-9 2.40 ERA
            Amos Otis                   KC                  26        93        .300
            Sal Bando                   OAK               29        98        .287
            Rod Carew                  MIN                6          62        .350
            John Hiller                   DET                10-5     1.44 ERA        38 Saves (new record)      


            Since the voters were kind enough to vote for 2 pitchers in the top, I will include them in one list as well. Again, comparing them to the league average performance, the top 10 from the AL in 1973 were:
            Reggie Jackson
            Jim Palmer
            Reggie Smith
            George Scott
            John Hiller
            John Mayberry
            Thurman Munson
            Rod Carew
            Carl Yastrzemski
            Amos Otis

            So as far as the best player in the league, the voters got it right.

            The Cy Young voting was a little different, as Hiller didn't get the same consideration in that voting. Whether it was because no reliever had won the award before or not, he didn't fare that well in the voting. But Jim palmer won the first of his three awards:
            Jim Palmer                   BAL                22-9     2.40
            Nolan Ryan                 CAL                21-16   2.87
            Catfish Hunter              OAK               21-5     3.34
            John Hiller                   DET                10-5     1.44     38 saves
            Wilbur Wood              CHI                 24-20   3.46

            And my numbers were:
            Jim Palmer
            John Hiller
            Bert Blyleven              MIN                20-17   2.52
            Catfish Hunter
            Nolan Ryan

            The MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, the one that exceeded their team's performances, that were truly VALUABLE for the American League that season were:
            Thurman Munson        NY                  20        74        .301
            Frank Robinson           CAL                30        97        .266
            George Scott               MIL                 24        107      .306
            Reggie Jackson           OAK               32        117      .293
            Bobby Murcer             NY                  22        95        .304

            Munson provided a solid catcher with some sneaky good offensive numbers as a young catcher in 1973. He was still not yet reaching his 'prime', but I think this shows that the offensive numbers had been there for a while, and the team needed to build around him, which it eventually did.
            And the Most Valuable pitchers were:
            Jim Bibby                    TEX                9-10     3.24
            Gaylord Perry             CLE                19-19   3.38
            John Hiller                   DET                10-5     1.44     38 saves
            Bert Blyleven              MIN                20-17   2.52
            Jim Colborn                 MIL                 20-12   3.18

            Bibby is perplexing here, after coning over from St. Louis, his numbers on the face were not that strong, but when you factor in the 9 wins for a team that only won forty-eight more, they kinda make sense. Remember, these number are measured against his team, and his performance above the team average.

            Over in the National League, their voting results were:

            Pete Rose                    CIN                 5          64        .338
            Willie Stargell             PIT                  44        119      .299
            Bobby Bonds              SF                    39        96        .283     43 SB
            Joe Morgan                 CIN                 26        82        .290     67 SB
            Mike Marshall             MON               14-11   2.66     31 Saves
            Lou Brock                   STL                 7          63        .297     70SB
            Tony Perez                  CIN                 27        101      .314    

            And the Cy Young vote:
            Tom Seaver                 NY                  19-10   2.08
            Mike Marshall             MON               14-11   2.66     31 saves
            Ron Bryant                 SF                    24-12   3.53
            Jack Billingham           CIN                 19-10   3.04
            Don Sutton                 LA                   18-10   2.42

            Performance wise, there were a few surprises, but the top performers by my calculations were:
            Willie Stargell             PIT                  44        119      .299
            Tom Seaver                 NY                  19-10   2.08
            Joe Ferguson               LA                   25        88        .263
            Bobby Bonds              SF                    39        96        .283     43SB
            Darrell Evans              ATL                41        104      .281
            Johnny Bench             CIN                 25        104      .253
            Ken Singleton             MON               23        103      .302
            Joe Morgan                 CIN                 26        82        .290     67 SB
            So, without further adieu, the MOST VALUABLE players in the NL in 1973:      
            Willie Stargell             PIT                  44        119      .299
            Joe Ferguson               LA                   25        88        .263
            Ken Singleton             MON               23        103      .302
            Nate Colbert               SD                   22        80        .270
            Bob Watson                HOU               16        94        .312

            Stargell was easily to most dominant player in the league, leading in homers and RBI. Remember this was a Pirates team that was reeling from the loss of Roberto Clemente in the off-season. This team was the the beginnings of the "We Are Family" championship team of 1979.

            And in pitching:
            Wayne Twitchell         PHI                 13-9     2.50
            Tom Seaver                 NY                  19-10   2.08
            Bill Greif                     SD                   10-17   3.21
            Ken Brett                    PHI                 13-9     3.44
            Steve Renko                MON               15-11   2.81

            Twitchell is one that never really lived up to his promise As you can see from his low ERA, he could really pitch. He was one that bounced around to a few organization, but never really landing anywhere until he got to Philly. 1973 was his best season.

            So there you have it, the 1973 season review, or as I see it forty-two years later.

A Great Father's Day gift idea!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

1986 and the Dynasty that never was

            I am a Mets fan, and have been one for many years. Through ups and downs. More of one than the other it seems.
            As baseball fans know, it's been fourteen years since their last World Series appearance and almost thirty years since their last Series title.
            But oh, what could have been.

            The Mets were the dominant team in the mid to late 80's. From 1984 through 1990, they won 666 games, an average of 95 wins per season. The next closest team was the Cardinals, with 582 wins, 84 wins per season. Oh, and they had TWO World Series titles in that time.
            But let's look at the 1986 season, shall we?

            In the history of the National League, only four teams have won 108 or more games in a season. The Mets in '86, The Reds in '75, the Pirates in 1909 and the Cubs in 1906. (The Cubs and Pirates both did it in less games, and the Cubs won 116 and lost only 36.)
            The Mets dominated that year, winning their division pretty easily,  21 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies, who were led by future Hall of Famer and MVP Mike Schmidt.
            In the Western Division, the Astros were riding the arm of Mike Scott and his new found dominance of his split-fingered fastball. Although some did say (and some still do) that there was some help from a scuff  or two along the way, Scott remains the only pitcher to pitch a no-hitter in his teams clinching game.
            Scott was joined on the Astros staff by lefties Bob Knepper and Jim Deshaies, and righty Nolan Ryan. Yes, Ryan was the second of the two hard throwing righties on the staff. They also had workhorse Charley Kerfeld and workman like Dave Smith coming out of the bullpen. They compiled a composite ERA of 3.51 to lead the National League.
            Right on their heels were the New York Mets, led by Doc Gooden coming off of his Cy Young year in 1985. Their staff included Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera and Bobby Ojeda. They had the lefty-righty duo of Jesse Orosco and Roger "Skeeter" McDowell out of the pen. McDowell, it should be noted, won fourteen games out of the bullpen, and almost unheard of statistic in today's game.

            The Mets of that era were dominant, yes, but they had the misfortune of going up against 'lightning in a bottle' teams. In 1984, as the Mets' run was beginning, Rookie manager Davey Johnson and Rookie of the Year pitcher Dwight Gooden led the team to their first ninety win season since the Miracle Mets of 1969. They lost the division to the Cubs, who won ninety-six games, and earned their first post-season berth since 1945 (the Year of the Billy Goat).
            In 1985, the Mets won ninety-eight games, but Whitey Herzog's Cardinals beat them by three games, winning one hundred and one games, on their way to a World Series win over the Kansas City Royals.
            1987, a Mets season that was derailed by a drug suspension for Dwight Gooden, they won ninety-two games to the Cardinals' ninety-five. (The Cardinals would lose to the Twins in the Fall Classic.)
            1988 brings the Mets their fourth division title, winning a hundred games for the third time in franchise history, only to be upset by Tommy LaSorda and the Dodgers in the playoffs, as the Dodger rolled on to beat the heavily favored Oakland A's in that World Series.
            1989, and the winning continued for teh Mets, but not winning enough to visit October baseball. They slipped to eighty-seven wins, finishing behind the Cubs with ninety-three. The Cubs would fall to the Giants in the Earthquake Series of '89.
            1990's performance, or the mediocrity therein, cost Davey Johnson his job halfway through the season. They improved to ninety-one wins, but they were beaten by the youngsters in Pittsburgh, Bonilla and Bonds, who won ninety-five to earn their first playoff appearance since 1975.

            So timing, aging veterans and the excesses of some, combined with general attrition via trades and Free Agency took the wind out of the sails for the Mets of that time. They fought, brawled, carried on as boys will do. But they also won.

            But then there was 1986, and the Magic was Back.

            We all know about what happened in that post season, in both leagues, the Championship Series were both incredible, including the epic NL Game Six in the Astrodome. The home run that Donnie Moore allowed in the AL Series, which would haunt him until his last breath. The rollercoaster Fall Classic with the improbable ending of THAT Game Six, with the infamous ground ball to first.
            A slight digression here, amongst all the other digressions on these pages...Bill Buckner was not the biggest culprit on that October evening. In fact, if there hadn't been the wild pitch earlier in Mookie Wilson's at bat, Ray Knight would have been on first base, with Buckner maybe holding him on, when Mookie hit the thousand bouncer in his direction. Even if Buckner flubbed that ball, there was no way Knight would have scored, or even tried to score. So yes, it was easy to point the finger at Buckner, but Bob Stanley should also be mentioned equally, if not more so.
            And since we're on digressions, and as I have mentioned that I am a Mets fan, I would be remiss if I didn't recall the fact that in June, 1985, the Mets were trounced by the Phillies 26-7. What stands out in that game is the record set by Mets pitchers, the first time two different pitchers allowed ten or more runs in the same game. (Calvin Schiraldi and Joe Sambito)
            Fast forward to 1986, and two member of the Boston Red Sox bullpen were Schiraldi and Sambito.  Schiraldi was actually the losing pitcher in Game Six.

            OK, so now we get to the post season awards. The MVP voting went as follows:
1. Mike Schmidt         PHILS
2. Glenn Davis            ASTROS
3. Gary Carter             METS
4. Keith Hernandez     METS
5. Dave Parker                        REDS
6. Rock Raines            EXPOS
7. Kevin Bass              ASTROS
8. Von Hayes              PHILS
9. Tony Gwynn           PADRES
10. Mike Scott                        ASTROS

            And for the Cy Young Award:
1. Mike Scott              ASTROS
2. Fernando Valenzuela DODGERS
3. Mike Krukow          GIANTS
4. Bob Ojeda               METS
5. Ron Darling                        METS
5. Rick Rhoden           PIRATES

            Interesting that the voters went with Michael Jack Schmidt, giving him his third MVP Award, during a year where the pitching seemed to outpace the hitters, especially Mike Scott's performance.
            Or did it?
            Scott went 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA, striking out 306, 64 more than the second place finisher in K's.
            Valenzuela was 21-11 with a 3.14 ERA.
            Mike "The Polish Prince" Krukow was 20-3 with a 3.05 ERA.
            Scott and Bob Knepper each had 5 shutouts.
            Bobby Ojeda was 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA and led the league with a .783 winning percentage.

            Over on the offensive side:
            Schmidt           37        119      .290
            Davis               31        101      .265
            Carter              24        105      .255
            Hernandez       13        83        .310
            Parker              31        116      .273
            Raines             9          62        .334
            Bass                 20        79        .311
            Hayes              19        98        .305
            Gwynn                        14        59        .329

            Decent numbers from the top 9 in MVP voting. But my formula changes the rankings a bit. Factoring in Runs Created along with a couple of other factors, comes up with a different ranking...
            The top 10 NL offensive ranking for 1986 are:
            Gary Carter                 Mets   
            Mike Schmidt             Phils
            Von Hayes                  Phils
            Eric Davis                   Reds
            Keith Hernandez         Mets
            Darryl Strawberry       Mets
            Dave Parker                Reds
            Kevin McReynolds     Padres
            Glenn Davis                Astros
            Tim Raines                  Expos

            And the top 8 pitchers were: 
            Mike Scott                  Astros
            Bobby Ojeda               Mets
            Rob Murphy                Reds
            Mike Krukow              Giants
            Fernando Valenzuela  Dodgers
            Danny Darwin                        Astros
            Dwight Gooden          Mets
            Bruce Ruffin               Phils

            As you can see, some stark differences between the voting and my performance evaluations. (On the offensive chart, please note that Hubie Brooks of the Expos ranked 2nd, but didn't have enough at-bats to qualify for league titles)
            Combining the numbers, to come up with one clear cut candidate for the best all around player in the league, the top 5 rank as so:

            The Most VALUABLE Player, the one that outperformed their team's performances in 1986 are ranked as such, lowest to highest, top 5:
            5. Rick Rhoden                       Pirates
            4. Dave Dravecky                   Padres
            3.Kevin McReynolds              Padres
            2. Gary Carter                         Mets
            1. Fernando Valenzuela          Dodgers.

            So, in the 1986 National League, you Player of the Year:
                                            Gary Carter

            And your Most Valuable Player:

                                                      Fernando Valenzuela

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