By: Paul DiSclafani
It will always be the “Pepsi Porch” to me.
I’ve never called the Triboro Bridge the “RFK” bridge, have you? Did you even know that they renamed the 59th Street Bridge after former NYC Mayor Ed Koch? Hell, I still sometimes call Citi Field Shea Stadium…
I was awe-struck the first time I walked into Citi Field. I went to the first event there, a St. John’s University baseball game just before the opening of the 2009 MLB season. Everyone was there for the same reason, to bask in the glory that was now ours. A brand, spanking new stadium! Oh, I know everyone waxes nostalgic about Shea Stadium and it’s charm and history and all that. But it was a dump. It was OUR dump, but a dump none the less.
Shea had character and memories, but is also had bad plumbing and leaked when it rained. The escalators didn’t work most of the time, but we at least had the ramps. When you left your seat, you left the game action, plain and simple.
The beauty of Citi Field was a sight to behold! For the first few years, there were more people wandering around than sitting in their seats. If you were anywhere on the lower level, you could just stop and watch the action. If you were just about anywhere in the stadium, you could look at a video screen of the action. But Citi Field offered Mets fans something that most had never experienced, a view of the action from fair territory and a chance to catch a home run ball.
Oh sure, Shea had a “picnic” area out in left-center, but you couldn’t buy a ticket there. You had to be part of a “group” to sit there. Now Citi Field offered you the chance to sit anywhere in the stadium. But there was one eye-catching, bigger than life attraction – The Pepsi Porch.
The gigantic, iconic, red, white and blue “Pepsi-Cola” neon sign was like a beacon of coolness. Not only were your eyes drawn to it, you wanted to go up there and see what was going on. Your seats were actually hanging over the field of play and you could look down on the right fielder. This was no ordinary “bleacher” seats, this was the place to be. Oh sure, you could sit behind home plate, or on the field level, but it would bring a smile to anyone’s face when you told them you seats were in the “Pepsi Porch”.
It was the highlight of the 2013 All-Star game home run derby. What left-handed participant didn’t want to crank one into the Porch? And as a fan, it didn’t get much better than this – You had your own concessions and your own bathrooms! They thought of everything! Even the SNY announcers broadcast a game or two from the Pepsi Porch, almost catching a home run ball during a broadcast once.
The 550 seat Porch was so popular, that the Pepsi Cola company sponsored “Pepsi Porches” in other stadiums, like San Diego and Comerica Park in Detroit. Only those parks just found areas to rename the “Pepsi Porch”. Citi Field BUILT a Pepsi Porch.
And now, the Pepsi Porch is no more. The Pepsi Cola Company has decided not to renew their sponsorship agreement with the Mets. “Pepsi loves the great sport of baseball,” Pepsi said in a statement. “We’ve had a productive relationship with the Mets and wish them all the best in the future, but have decided to reinvest in a different way.”
What better way than that? Every person who has ever attended a game at Citi Field or watched the Mets on TV knows what the “Pepsi Porch” is. Other than our Home Run Apple, the Porch is the most recognizable aspect of Citi Field. Granted, most people spend the most time on the line at the Shake Shack, but ya gotta eat, right?
So what happens now? Does Coca-Cola put in a claim to the Coke Corner? What about other sponsors? Can Viagra tie something in with the Foul Pole? What about Coors Light making it look like a mountain range?
Remember when you were a kid and you knew the name of every stadium because it had something to do with the city or the team? Not anymore. Corporate sponsorships are how some of these stadiums are getting built and I can understand that. Hell, we play at Citi Field. What’s going to happen when they file Chapter 11? I was at the JETS game on Sunday and most people are still calling Metlife Stadium, Giants Stadium.
You know what I think? I don’t think it matters. It may become one of those things that gets renamed every few years when a sponsor runs out of money. If that happens, nothing will ever “stick”. People will just call it what it is, “The Pepsi Porch”.
So let’s not say goodbye just yet. The new sponsor is going to have to do something cool and exciting to make people forget it was ever called the Pepsi Porch.
And some trivia for you – Who was the last Mets player to hit a home run into the Pepsi Porch? Michael Conforto, in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series…
Recently MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark indicated that there will be renewed discussions with the league, owners etc. with regards to implementing the Designated Hitter in the National League. The National League is the only league remaining in the world that does not use a DH. You might be shocked to know that nearly all the minor leagues in the National League use a DH. I have long held the position that the DH should have been implemented in the National League back in 1973 when it became a rule in the American League. Contrary to popular belief by the baseball “traditionalist” out there the DH was first proposed in the National League as early as 1891. William Chase Temple, the co-owner of the Pirates first proposed the idea to the National League rules committee. In 1928 the National League president John Heydler also took a swing at it without getting anywhere. The league, owners and managers recognized very early on that the majority of pitchers were simply not competitive at the plate.
There are many reasons at the MLB level that I feel it should be used in both leagues. Making the case for the DH goes far deeper then what is happening at the MLB level. However, I will mention a few of those reasons first and then go into the much deeper ones.
Inter-league and World Series: The use or non-use of the DH creates a disadvantage for American League teams that spend nearly an entire season playing the game one way and then have to change. Where are all the supporters of the “integrity of the game” issues now?
A better product to watch: Sorry National League fans but when I see 7, 8 and 9 coming up in the order in your league it is time to go get a beer or hit the men’s room. Pitchers are generally automatic outs and when they get a hit the announcers laugh and the players in the dugout laugh. What does that tell you? It tells me that a pitcher hitting is not taken seriously in any way shape or form at the MLB level. In over 5000 at bats in 2014 the pitchers hit for a combined average of .124. I am pretty sure that I can do better than that!
Lack of strategy in the game: Don’t you dare try to even use this argument. Nobody spends money on high ticket prices then jumps in their car, heads out to the stadium for several hours and says “boy oh boy, I can’t wait to see Matt Harvey sacrifice bunt in the 7th inning”. People do not watch baseball to see if a pitcher can get a bunt down or to see if a manager will pinch hit for somebody. If that is what you are into then I think checkers should be a spectator sport for you.
I could go on and on with many more reasons related to the playing and watching of Major League games and why the National League should have the DH. However there are more far reaching reasons why this makes sense to finally stop the madness.
I am 50 years old but I can remember my high school and college baseball days pretty well. The pitchers, generally speaking, did not hit in the batting order and that was in the mid 1980’s. The transformation at those levels was probably already well in place by that time. Even the worst pitcher in the majors was likely a star pitcher early on in his life. So as is the case with star pitchers that by the time they get to junior high the emphasis became more on the pitching and not the hitting. As I previously stated this was going on when I was playing high school and college ball over 30 years ago. Unless the pitcher was just an incredible hitter most coaches preferred to keep his star pitcher off the base paths and out of the batter’s box. The coach got the piece of mind that his pitcher had less risk of an injury as well as keeping the legs fresh for the pitching. In addition to that the coach got the flexibility of getting another player on the field in the form of a DH. Right or wrong this is what started 35+ years ago in high school, college and summer leagues all over this country. The results of this change in how games are managed at the lowest of levels has translated into pitchers that are worse hitters today than in 1891 when the subject was first broached by the Pirates owner in the National League.
We have created a scenario where the results could only and have only become increasingly bad. The future MLB pitcher stops hitting regularly at about age 14. Let’s say he arrives in the majors at age 24. To get to that point of high level play you can bet your bottom dollar that the pitcher spent all his time working on pitching and not hitting. Now you are asking that pitcher to pick up a bat and face Clayton Kershaw 3 or 4 times in a game and have some success when the guy has not swung a bat in 10 years. To add insult to injury now you are asking that same pitcher to hit in a game once every 5 or 6 days and be successful at it. This does not make a whole lot of sense now does it ? It is hard enough for back up catchers and the fifth outfielder on a team to do well once a week and they have been hitting there entire lives. Not to mention they take BP every day to hone their skills which pitchers do not do.
It is far past the time for the DH to make its National League debut. I don’t think it is a question of if anymore but a question of when. I think it will be in place in less than 3 years. So get your last final looks at Bartolo Colon taking his hacks folks. All the fans that don’t want the DH should jump out of your seat as much as possible, while you still can, when you watch your pitcher foul off the third strike on a bunt attempt . Soon these non competitive embarrassing at bats will become a thing of the past. It has long past the time for this to happen.
Lucas Duda was Daniel Murphy before Daniel Murphy was Daniel Murphy. When New York Mets first baseman, Luca Duda, hit a three run homer in the first inning of game 4 of the NLCS vs. the Chicago Cubs it was his first homerun in the previous 12 games played. That is combining the post season and the last 4 games of the regular season. Duda, by all accounts, appears to be one of the streakiest hitters in Met history; Daniel Murphy’s current hitting stretch notwithstanding. What Daniel Murphy is doing right now in the playoffs is unprecedented in MLB history. Duda had similar streaks during the regular season.
Lucas Duda is the quiet mild mannered first baseman on the Mets that we don’t hear much about. In a lot of ways he has become the forgotten man on this Met team. We are all very aware of the red hot hitting of Yoenis Cespedes that carried the Mets in August. Curtis Granderson spent a good portion of the season as the only consistent homerun threat in the Met lineup and he was batting leadoff. The entire world is aware of what Daniel Murphy is currently hitting in the playoffs. Duda had been the forgotten man up until his homerun in the final game of the sweep vs the Cubs in the NLCS. Duda can be very easy to forget. He is prone to very long periods of time where he does not hit at all. The 12 game homer drought that I referenced earlier is a good example. The good news is that Duda is also prone to incredible hot streaks. He had three such streaks in 2015 during the regular season.
From May 21st to May 29th Duda had an incredible week of hitting. In 7 games he went 9 for 25 with 6 homeruns and 9 RBI’s. That sounds very much like what Murphy is doing now. What surprised me about that hot week of hitting in May for Duda is he did it again in late July! From July 25th to August 2nd, an eight game stretch, Duda went 11 for 28 with 7 homeruns and 12 RBI’s. At that point you figure that Duda is done with the hot streaks. No folks he was not done yet. In 3 games from September 25th to the 27th Duda had a mini hitting streak where he went 6 for 12 with 5 homeruns and 13 RBI’s. Lucas Duda hit 27 homeruns in 2015. 18 of those homeruns came in the 18 games that I just described. If that is not the definition of a “streaky hitter” then I don’t know what is.
It is also worth noting that following the May streak Duda went 16 games before homering again. Following the late July streak Duda went another 19 games before reaching the seats. When Duda is good he is great. When he is not you just have to wait until he is good again. Met fans can only dream of what next week in the World Series will bring if Lucas Duda is about to go on another hitting rampage along with Murphy. If Duda heats up you can start making your plans for a parade. Every Duda has his day and the Mets are closing in on theirs.
New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has taken over the spotlight in the National League playoffs. The homerun he hit off Jake Arrieta in Game 2 of the NLCS was his fifth of the post season. An incredible performance when Murphy is not normally considered a homerun hitter. It is even more surprising when you realize that in this post season Murphy has homered off of the likely top 3 vote getters for the National League Cy Young Award. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and now Jake Arrieta have all fallen victim to Murphy’s power. Kershaw was touched up twice and let’s not forget that the Cubs Jon Lester also has been stung by Murphy. Daniel Murphy is hitting .357 with 5 HR’s and 8 RBI’s in the post season and basically has carried the Mets offensively along with Curtis Granderson. The Mets are leading the NLCS with a 2-0 advantage heading into tonight’s Game 3 in Chicago. It will be Jacob deGrom for the Mets vs. Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs. I am quite certain that Daniel Murphy will be ready to go.
A lot of the talk in New York all season regarding Murphy has centered on whether or not the Mets should re-sign the pending free agent. Murphy has been with the Mets for his entire career and is now 30 years old. His salary was $8 million for 2015 and he will certainly be seeking more than that in his next contract and he will want some years. What do you do with a player that has averaged .280 with 10 HR’s and 65 RBI’s over his 6 full seasons playing several positions but none of them very well? It is a good question and one that will get tougher and tougher for the Mets to answer if Murphy continues to lead the Mets to the promise land during this incredible run. Murphy is a “tweener” by all measures. He is not a 25 HR and 80 to 100 RBI guy. However he is not a “punch and judy” hitting infielder either. He does not steal bases and his defense is always in question. So the question of what to do with Murphy may have already been decided by Sandy Alderson. Met broadcaster Gary Cohen has already gone on record as saying that he would have “no interest” in signing Murphy after this season. There has been some talk that the Mets would be very happy to just promote Dilson Herrera from Triple A next year to play second base. Herrera hit .327 with 11 HR’s and 50 RBI’s in 327 at-bats at Las Vegas in 2015. A Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores combination has not been ruled out either.
Jerry Maguire taught us that “we live in a cynical world” and he is absolutely right about that. We focus on what people are not good at and forget what their strengths are. The big knock on Murphy has been that he is not a good fielder. To me he seems to have found a home at second base and appears to be getting more comfortable there. He was bounced around from the outfield to third base to first base over the years. An unfair knock on Murphy is that he has no speed. Very few players do have speed and it is not like Murphy is clogging up the base paths. He stole 23 bases a couple of seasons back. He does need to improve his base running decisions. Murphy does not hit 20 homers and does not drive in 100 runs. Yes that is true. So there are all the negatives from your cynical world.
How about the positives? Daniel Murphy had 73 RBI’s in 2015. Only Brian Dozier (77) and Robinson Cano (79) had more among MLB second baseman. Murphy only played 69 games at 2B but I think we can all agree it is his best position so now you know where he stacks up against his contemporaries. Keep in mind also that Murphy only played 130 games and for more than half the year was batting in a terrible offensive lineup. If he played a full season in a good lineup he would have easily been over 80 RBI’s and possibly over 20 homers. It is also worth noting that Murphy has played in a bad offensive lineup for several years which very well could have kept his numbers down in recent years. He is a hitter, plain and simple. Is he a late bloomer? He could very well be. Murphy himself attributes some of his success to Mets Hitting Coach Kevin Long. I have another positive for you. He is a player rising to the occasion under intense scrutiny and those players are very hard to find. He seems to have become and emotional leader on and off the field. He is well liked by his teammates and revered by the fans.
I seem to remember a similar Met player in the 80’s that could have been viewed the exact same way as Murphy and he is now part of Met royalty. That player was Keith Hernandez. In the 6 seasons prior to Hernandez’s age 30 season he averaged .300 with 11 HR’s and 78 RBI’s. Those were not exactly the kind of power numbers that you would expect from your first baseman but that is what Hernandez was. In 1984 Hernandez turned 30 and two years later the Mets won the World Series with Hernandez as their field general and huge veteran presence in the clubhouse. Players often do not get paid for the “intangibles” but they are real and they contribute to the day to day winning ways of a baseball team. I don’t know what the Mets will do with Daniel Murphy after this season. However I suspect that Murphy will do just fine wherever he plays. The Mets may not realize what they had in Murphy until he is not there anymore.
By: Paul DiSclafani
If you’ve ever gotten song lyrics stuck in your head, all season long I’ve been hearing the lyrics for “Once In a Lifetime”. In the words of the Talking Head’s David Byrne, “And you may ask yourself-Well, how did I get here?”
Listen to “Once In A Life Time” while you enjoy this article.
How did we get here, Mets fans?
Can you believe that the Mets – Our Mets – are in the National League Championship Series? Last night at Citi Field was electric despite the chilly weather. I was part of the crowd waving bright orange rally towels and standing up, screaming on almost every pitch. Quite a different atmosphere from a warm Tuesday night in June against the Marlins, no?
Playoff baseball in New York knows no equal, especially when it came quite unexpectedly. Back in April, we Mets fans were cautiously optimistic about competing in the NL East. We knew how good the Nationals were (on paper, anyway), but we also knew how good the Mets pitching staff could be. But we all know what happens to this team – our team – when we know how good we could be. We just aren’t.
Something always happens and this year was no different. Right out of the gate, in Spring Training no less, we found out that Zack Wheeler would miss the next 18 months with Tommy John surgery.
“And you may ask yourself, how do I work this?”
Then Daniel Murphy was hurt all spring and had only 21 AB’s. Our closer, Jennry Mejia is then suspended 80 games for PED use and we have to use our primary set up guy, Jeurys Familia to close out games. Our bullpen was already going to be a weak link, now this? Sheesh…
“Same as it ever was… same as it ever was … same as it ever was …”
No problem, we open the season in Washington and take two out of three to make everyone happy again, only to drop two out of three in Atlanta. We won the home opener (don’t we always?) and then got to see Matt Harvey in person for the first time. During the game, Captain David Wright pulled up lame sliding into second base with a hamstring injury. All summer we all became junior orthopedic surgeons and learned much more about spinal stenosis than we ever cared to know and didn’t see Wright in uniform again until the middle of August.
“And you may ask yourself, Am I right? … Am I Wrong?”
Oh sure, we had an incredible 11-game winning streak, then went into Yankee Stadium all high and mighty, ready to take over New York, and spit the bit, losing two out of three and being put back in our place as second class citizens in our own town. A week later, we had lost two out of three in Miami and came home to lose three out of four to the Nationals, going from the euphoria of a 13-3 start to a fairly pedestrian 16-10. Dillon Gee was 0-2, Jacob deGrom was 2-3 and Jonathan Niese was 2-2.
“Same as it ever was… same as it ever was … same as it ever was …”
And it went that way most of the summer; we would get swept by the Cubs, lose a few, win a few, then sweep the Phillies. We won 5 out of 6, only to lose seven in a row, then win four in a row. We were keeping our heads above water, treading hard to stay alive and keeping an eye on the prize, as we slowly came to realize something. The Nationals just weren’t that good.
“Letting the days go by..”
Like everything else in life, it came to a tipping point. We were right there, right on the fringe of catching the Nationals. They couldn’t put us away and we couldn’t get out of our own way sometimes, but we were still in this thing. We obviously had the horses once Noah Syndergaard arrived to join Harvey, deGrom and Colon, but we didn’t have the jockeys.
When the Dodgers rolled into town in late July, our cleanup hitter was John Mayberry Jr (batting .165) followed by Eric Campbell (batting .176). Clayton Kershaw, who was 7-6 at the time, took a perfect game into the seventh inning, embarrassing the Mets and forcing GM Sandy Alderson’s hand.
“And you may say to yourself, My God! What have I done?”
You know the rest, Mets fans. The turnaround was so dramatic, so unexpected that we flew past the Nationals before they even knew what hit them. Within six weeks, just a blip on the baseball season radar, we were preparing for a clinching game for the NL East title.
And last night, with a packed Citi Field, you could feel that energy again. That pure, baseball energy again. It smelled like October again in Queens. Suddenly, Cleon Jones bending to one knee to catch that last out in 1969 didn’t seem like it was almost 50 years ago.
And there was Keith Hernandez, mustache and all, throwing out the first pitch. Matt Harvey took the mound and struck out the first two batters he faced, putting a charge into an already electric crowd that was there for one thing only. To cheer on the orange and blue and remember what October baseball was all about. That feeling of angst in the pit of your stomach. As Mike Meyers would say, you are all “fer-klempt”.
We Met fans may not get this feeling too often, but we know it when we see it. And we can feel it. It’s the postseason and it is always special.
“Same as it ever was… same as it ever was … same as it ever was …”
By: Paul DiSclafani
And now it begins.
After a roller coaster season that started with hope of a winning season and dreams of a Wild-Card berth, the Mets head out to Chavez Ravine in California as NL Eastern Division Champions to play the Dodgers for the NL Divisional Series in the first leg of the post season.
Everything that has happened between April 1 and October 8 is meaningless. An entire season of blood, sweat and tears over 162 games that earned each team the right to play in the post season is wiped from the books. Every error, every strikeout, every walk-off hit, every inning of every game. Everyone starts with a clean slate.
So why do we do these “preview” articles while citing chapter and verse as we refer back to the season that was? Because although you won 20 games in a season, or you hit 45 home runs, that doesn’t mean you are going to duplicate that success (or failure) in the playoffs. However, history is always there for us to refer to. You can’t change the past, but past performance is not indicative of future success (or failure). Didn’t I hear that on a commercial somewhere?
But the Mets and Dodgers do have a history that is not only linked on the field, but off the field as well. The expansion Mets were fashioned after their two National League parents, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, taking the Dodger blue and the Giants orange as their colors. Mets owner Fred Wilpon, a long time Brooklyn Dodger fan, was instrumental in designing the façade of the new Citi Field to resemble Ebbets field, home of the Dodgers, so much so in fact that the entrance rotunda is named after and dedicated to the iconic Dodger, Jackie Robinson.
In the early days of the Mets franchise, you could only count of big crowds a couple of times a year. Opening Day, and games against the Giants and Dodgers. Many baseball fans, who lost their beloved Dodgers and Giants to the Left Coast in 1957 embraced the expansion Mets in 1962 as their own.
Subsequent generations never had that connection to the Dodgers and Giants and now see their games as more of a nuisance when we go out to the West Coast with start times at 10:05. What games were more important to Mets fans this year than the ones against Washington?
And now the postseason is about to begin. As Hall Of Fame Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy used to say, “Fasten Your Seat-belts…”
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Mets (90-72) won the NL East during an incredible six-week hot streak that began in August. The Mets hung close enough to the Nationals during the season to make a run at them after obtaining five players before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline that reshaped their offense and shored up their bullpen. They ripped off 21 wins in August and had an 8-game winning streak in September that moved them to 9.5 games ahead of Washington and got the countdown started to their first postseason appearance in nine years. Suddenly the specter of Carlos Beltran taking a called strike three in Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006 and the subsequent collapses down the stretch of 2007 and 2008 became a distant memory. Although they are limping into the playoffs with just one win in their last six games, the Mets and their fans are ready for October baseball.
The Dodgers (92-70) took their time fighting off the Defending World Champion Giants, but won the NL West for a third straight season under skipper Don Mattingly. The Dodgers have been to the post season six times in the last 10 years. Under first year president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and new General Manager Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers had the highest payroll in baseball this season, $285 million, but it paid off. They have not one, but two candidates for the Cy Young award in Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke and their sweep of the Padres in the final regular season series of the season earned them home field advantage in the NLDS. The Dodgers tied with the Cardinals for the most home wins in 2015, 55.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES:
The Mets had just gotten swept by the Cubs at home, dropping to 40-40, when they headed out for a 9-game West Coast road trip that started in LA. Noah Syndergaard and Kershaw matched pitch for pitch in a game the Mets won 2-1 with a run in the top of the ninth. Zach Grienke then beat Matt Harvey the next night, 4-3 before the Mets and rookie Steven Matz took the rubber game, 8-0. The series win gave the Mets a confidence boost as they finished the trip 7-2 just before the All-Star break.
Then the Dodgers came to town in late July and were the catalyst to the Mets turnaround. With Kershaw starting the first game of a four game series, the Mets put up a lineup that included John Mayberry Jr (.165) hitting cleanup and Eric Campbell (.176) hitting fifth. Kershaw dominated, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning. How the Mets managed three hits at all is still a mystery. The next day GM Sandy Alderson promoted AA outfielder Michael Conforto and traded for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. After another Dodger win, 7-2 on Friday, Johnson and Uribe arrived on Saturday and had an immediate impact as the Mets won the final two games of the series. Johnson hit a home run in his first AB as a Met and rookie Conforto went 4-4 in a 15-2 win (Mets had 21 hits) and the next night, Uribe drove home the winning run in the 10th, missing a home run by inches.
The Mets won the regular season series, 4-3