New York Mets: Al Jackson

View from St. Lucie: Al Jackson with Mejia

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12

Adam RubinAl Jackson, 78, offers pitching knowledge to Jenrry Mejia on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie.

Adam RubinAnthony Recker awaits catching a bullpen session.

Adam RubinVic Black practices fielding with other Mets pitchers.

View from St. Lucie: Fred and Al

February, 16, 2013

Adam Rubin
Fred Wilpon and instructor Al Jackson watch bullpen sessions Saturday morning in Port St. Lucie.

The series in Metrics (Mets at Nationals)

August, 20, 2012
A most improbable victory
The Mets won Saturday’s game in one of the most unusual manners possible. They whiffed 15 times and managed just three hits.
The Mets are now 2-2 all-time when they manage that combination. The other win came in a game against the Reds in 1965, in which they were no-hit for 10 innings by Jim Maloney (who struck out 18), but scored in the 11th on a Johnny Lewiss homer to win 1-0.

One of the losses actually came earlier this season, also against the Nationals. That makes the Mets the second team since 1920 to win such a game and lose such a game in the same season. That was also done by the 1986 Mariners, whose loss came in the game in which Roger Clemens struck out 20.

Here’s the capper to all of this. The Mets 2-2 record when whiffing at least 15 times and managing three or fewer hits looks a lot better when you look at how other teams have fared in such games.

Those other franchises: a combined 3-88 since 1920.

How Niese Won
My Stats & Information colleague, Lee Singer offers this recap of how Jonathon Niese looked so good in his win on Saturday.

Seventeen of the 22 outs Niese recorded came on his cutter (10) and curveball (7), tied for his most outs on those pitches in a game in his career.
Niese had three strikeouts on his cutter and three on his curveball, the first start of his career he had at least three with each.

Niese threw 39 percent cutters, his highest percentage in his last nine starts. Nationals hitters were 1-for-11 in at-bats ending with Niese's cutter.

Niese threw 18 of his 21 curveballs for strikes, a season-high 86 percent. He threw 12 in the zone for strikes, got the Nationals to chase another five and got a called strike on one that Pitch F/X deemed to be out of the strike zone.

Niese missed bats to get to two strikes and then kept the Nationals' bats on their shoulders to put them away. He tied a season high with nine swings and misses before two strikes and tied a career high with five called strikeouts.

Johan's not so grand start
The grand slam allowed by Johan Santana to Mike Morse was the fifth grand slam Santana has allowed with the Mets, setting a club record. He previously shared the mark with Al Leiter, Armando Benitez, Tug McGraw and Ron Taylor.

The Mets have now allowed 30 grand slams in the last five seasons, tied with the Cubs for most in the majors. The Nationals have the most against them with five.

Santana is the first pitcher to allow six earned runs or more in five straight appearances since Mike Hampton in 2001-2002 and the first to do so in a single-season since Willie Blair in 1999.

Santana has allowed at least six earned runs six times this season. The only pitchers to have more such games in a season in Mets history are Al Jackson (1962, 7) and Tom Glavine (2007, 7)

Santana currently has a 4.85 ERA. The highest single-season ERA by a Mets pitcher who threw multiple shutouts that season (remember: Santana’s no-hitter was his second straight shutout) is 4.40 by Jackson in 1962.

Tejada a road warrior
Ruben Tejada had his 16-game road hitting streak snapped on Saturday.

Only three Mets whose primary position was middle infield have had longer road hitting streaks than that – Jose Reyes (24 games in 2010, 17 in 2008), Jose Vizcaino (21 games spanning 1995 and 1996), and Ken Boswell (17 games in 1971). Edgardo Alfonzo had a 17-gamer as well, split between third base in 1998 and second base in 1999. Rey Ordonez matched Tejada's streak in 1999.

Mets morning briefing 5.14.11

May, 14, 2011
A day after Carlos Beltran had three homers in Colorado, the Mets spread out their deep shots, with Jason Bay, Fernando Martinez and David Wright all homering in a come-from-behind 6-4 win against the Houston Astros.

Saturday's news reports:

• Post columnist Mike Vaccaro wonders if the Mets and Yankees could do business, with Beltran winding up in the Bronx. Writes Vaccaro:

If it feels like the Yankees and the Mets never do any business together . . . well, that’s not really true. Since November 1964, when the Yankees drafted the immortal Duke Carmel off the roster of the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, the teams have engaged in 14 deals (nine of them trades, the others purchases or Rule V drafts) involving one another. Most of them are forgotten, and with reason, because most of them involve the likes of Hal Reniff (1967) and Roy Staiger (1977) and Steve Ray (1983) and Mike Draper (1992). Some involve players whose baseball cards you no doubt have in a shoebox somewhere: Ray Burris (bought by the Mets, 1979); Frank Tanana (traded from the Mets to the Yankees for the unforgettable Kenny Greer, 1993); Tim Burke and Lee Guetterman (traded for each other on June 9, 1992).

How did Armando Benitez work out for the Yankees? I remember Jim Duquette joking once at a charity event with Brian Cashman that it took the Yankees only a few weeks to figure out what it took the Mets a few years.

• Texan Dillon Gee struggled in his home state with his control. Read more in the Post.

• Read game stories from Friday's 6-4 win in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Record and Star-Ledger.

Bobby Parnell is remaining on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo until he again makes back-to-back relief appearances. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

Roger McDowell returned to the Braves after his suspension for his inappropriate interaction with fans in San Francisco. "I've always said this is the best office in the world," McDowell said. "When I put the uniform back on I felt how fortunate I am to be able to put this uniform on and represent the organization. ... I am not proud of the way I acted and I know that it will not happen again."

Terry Collins managed a game in Houston for the first time since his tenure as Astros manager came to a close after the 1996 season. "There's really nothing the same," Collins said. "The uniforms have changed, the ballpark's changed. I don't know anybody. There's really nothing similar to when I was here. I've certainly followed them over the years because I was a part of it once, but it's a whole different atmosphere now." Collins said his 1994 team with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio would have made the postseason if not for the strike. They were a half-game behind first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central when the season prematurely ended. Read more in the Record and Newsday.

• Don't look now, but the Mets are on track to win their third straight series after taking Friday's opener in Houston. Still, Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal uses the overall slow start to discuss those awful 1962 Mets. Writes Costa:

The phone calls come once every several years. Somewhere, a team will be losing baseball games at an astonishing rate. And invariably, the living members of the 1962 New York Mets will be asked for their opinion. Nearly half a century after they set a modern record by losing 120 games, they remain the nation's foremost authorities on prolonged ineptitude. "I kind of hate the phone calls about it," said Al Jackson, a starting pitcher on the '62 Mets. "People make fun of it, sure, but they didn't live through it. I lived through this. I could have had a heart attack. That's how bad I felt."

BIRTHDAY: Ex-Met Dick Tidrow turns 64. Most forget that Tidrow, a former Yankee, closed his career with a dreadful 11-game stint in 1984 as a Met, in which he finished with a 9.19 ERA. Tidrow has since gone on to become a major success as an executive with the San Francisco Giants, and is credited by GM Brian Sabean as being the key decision-maker with regards to the drafting of their young pitching talent. -Mark Simon

One-hit wonders

August, 18, 2010

Getty Images
Shawn Estes (left), Tom Seaver (middle), and R.A. Dickey (right) are among those in Mets history who have flirted with a no-hitter, but had to settle for the next-best thing, a one-hitter.

“A Single in First Spoils No-Hitter” read the New York Times headline on June 23, 1962, the day after Al Jackson pitched the Mets first one-hitter against the Colt 45’s (now known as the Astros), allowing nothing after Joe Amalfitano’s single in the first game of a doubleheader.

That headline writer must have known something was in the fates that deemed that we’d still be talking about how the Mets have never thrown a no-hitter, 48 years later.

R.A. Dickey, pitching tonight against the Astros, was the latest tease—throwing the Mets 35th one-hitter, a Cole Hamels single away from history, against the Phillies last Friday. Mets fans don’t have much to celebrate these days (fans of other teams have celebrated 125 no-hitters since 1962), so it seems worthwhile to enjoy what are the best of the near-bests at this time.

In our attempt to be the “Ulti’met” team historian, we’ve armed ourselves with newspaper reports and internet accounts of all 35 games, supplemented those with a few audio and video tape airings, and studied up on the subject, in an effort to offer the most comprehensive descriptions and accounts possible. Follow along carefully -- there’s a lot to detail.

First we must tell how the Mets would lose the second game of Jackson’s doubleheader, 16-3, and something would happen in that one that hasn’t happened in any game since. The baseball gods must have been laughing as Colts pitcher Jim Golden tripled twice in the rout (Golden was golden; he’d go 5-0 against the 120-loss Mets).

Since 1962 -- Pitcher multi-triple games: 1, Mets no-hitters: 0.

The no-no is still verboten in Metville to this day.

Speaking of pitcher’s hitting, four have been responsible for the only hit of a Mets one-hitter, most recently Hamels last Friday. The first of those moundsmen, Ray Sadecki would later pitch for the Mets. He’d bust Jack Hamilton’s bid with a third-inning 20-foot bunt single along the third base line, perhaps the shortest hit in all the Mets one-hitters.

Ah, the bunt hit, forbidden by the unwritten rules of some from busting no-hitters, but welcomed early in the game when the thought of a no-hitter is not on anyone’s mind, save for obsessive Mets fans like Dirk Lammers, who runs the website, which tracks Mets no-hit bids game-by game, sending alerts via Twitter when an opponent gets the first hit of the game.

Sometimes that doesn't take long. Trot Nixon of the Red Sox got a bunt hit in the first inning on July 15, 2001, the day of Bobby Valentine’s 1,000th major league managerial victory, a combined one-hitter for Glendon Rusch and Armando Benitez.

The lone hit was a push bunt between the mound and first base, one fielded by Lenny Harris, whose throw to covering second basemen Edgardo Alfonzo was late. It’s a history mystery what might have happened had Rusch fielded the ball (he said afterwards he should have), but alas this no-hit bid turned out to be the 22nd one-hitter in team annals.

“I loved Glendon because of the attitude he brought to the park,” Valentine said recently. “I wish he could have pitched for me every day. He was the perfect choice for my 1,000th win.”

Just not perfect enough for a no-hitter.

Nor was Bobby Jones one-hit shutout of the Giants in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS. Jones’ wife Kristi told Valentine that her husband would pitch “the game of his life” that day. He did, and were it not for a fifth-inning line drive from Jeff Kent that just got over the glove of leaping third baseman Robin Ventura, it could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been a no-hitter.

“I wish Robin was 7-foot-4, so he could have caught it,” Jones said a few years later. “But he saved me many a time.”

Joe Morgan, announcing the game for ESPN said after Jones got the final out : “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game pitched this well, other than a perfect game.”

Others might beg to differ.

The Mets pitcher to come closest to a perfect game was Tom Seaver, whose bid lasted 8 1/3 innings on July 9, 1969, broken by a clean single to center from Cubs centerfielder Jimmy Qualls. When Qualls reached first base, who was there to greet him but Cubs coach Joey Amalfitano -- the same guy who had the only hit in Al Jackson's one-hitter in 1962.

Seaver would describe Qualls in his post-game press conference as “a sticky little hitter.” That also seems an apt name for David Eckstein, who had the only hit in the first of two Steve Trachsel one-hitters as a Met, this one featuring the fewest strikeouts (one) against the Angels in 2003.

Trachsel's other Mets close call was broken up by someone with the fewest career hits of anyone to have the only hit in a Mets one-hitter: Rockies starter Chun-hui Tsao (the first of two career hits) in the sixth inning of a game in 2003.

Seaver’s five one-hitters are the most in Mets history. His second was a 15-strikeout effort against the Phillies on May 15, 1970 that scores highest in Bill James Game Score metric (a 98) of any of the 198 games Seaver won as a Met.

It was the second time in a month that the Phillies fell victim to a 15 strikeout one-hitter, part of a two-year streak in which the Mets shut them out five times in a row (the 2010 squad would be envious). Nolan Ryan had the other, his best performance as a Met prior to being traded, beating future Hall of Famer (and past perfect-game vs the Mets-tosser) Jim Bunning.

It was also the second time in three days that the Mets came that close to a no-hitter. Gary Gentry pitched a one-hitter against the Cubs two days prior.

Hall of Famer Ernie Banks lined an eighth-inning single to left field, which may have been caught by left fielder Dave Marshall had wet grass not caused him to slip in his initial pursuit.

“I thought it would be caught,” Banks, who’d hit his 500th homer the day before, told the media after the game, but Marshall was only able to nick the ball with his glove before it dropped in.

THAT one was close. So was Dwight Gooden’s against the Cubs at Shea on September 7, 1984. Gooden had told Valentine, then the club’s third base coach, that he’d no-hit the Cubs someday. Had third baseman Ray Knight been able to get Keith Moreland’s slow roller in the fifth inning out of his glove, he might’ve kept Gooden’s bid intact. Instead, there was no grip, no throw, and no no-no.

The glory days passed Gooden by, but for the Mets one-hitter, the best of times were the early 1970s, with the team netting eight of the 80 thrown in the majors from 1970 to 1974, and the 2000s, in which they had at least one one-hitter from 2000 to 2008.

Seaver and Gary Gentry each tossed one against the world-champion Pirates in 1971, the latter broken up by Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente’s sixth-inning triple. Seaver would throw another vs the Padres on July 4, 1972. Leron Lee, father of Derrek, snapped that one with San Diego's only hit with one out in the ninth inning.

Seaver also had the Mets longest no-hit bid, against the Cubs in 1975 (halted by a Joe Wallis single with two outs in the ninth) but that doesn’t make the list because the game would go extra-innings and the Mets would lose 1-0, the victims of four hits and a game-ending bases-loaded walk.

The last of Seaver's Mets one-hitters came against the Cubs on April 17, 1977. In the fifth inning, Mets catcher John Stearns thought Seaver had Cubs third baseman Steve Ontiveros struck out, but umpire Andy Olsen called the pitch a ball. On 3-2, Ontiveros hit a bloop to right field, for which Ed Kranepool dove, but missed by inches.

Seaver would get his no-hitter on June 16, 1978 -- a year and a day after being traded to the Reds. And we should note that in his last appearance for the Mets, he allowed no hits -- albeit in one inning pitched on the next-to-last day of the 1983 season.

Was one of Seaver’s games the best Mets-pitched one-hitter?

The combo from John Maine (7 2/3 innings), Willie Collazo and Carlos Muniz against the Marlins on September 29, 2007 (the day before Tom Glavine gakked up the season), featured 14 strikeouts from Maine, and only a dink infield hit from Marlins catcher Paul Hoover. That one makes the most reasonable case among the most recent efforts.

Dickey's wasn't even the best this season. Jonathon Niese joined Seaver with the only one-baserunner, one-hitter earlier in the year against the Padres.

Niese and Dickey both make the list of unlikely one-hitter throwers, joining submariner Terry Leach, who threw a 10-inning one-hitter against the Phillies (ex-Mets coach Luis Aguayo had the only hit) in his second major league start on October 1, 1982, and not-so-well-liked Aaron Heilman, whose no-no attempt against the 2005 Marlins was broken up by an infield hit by current not-so-liked Met, Luis Castillo.


We break up this story on one-hitters to tell you that:

• The most Mets wins without a one-hitter: Jerry Koosman, 140

• The Mets have one-hit a soon-to-be World Series champ three times. We mentioned the two against the 1971 Pirates. The other -- a Jae Seo, David Weathers, Armando Benitez team effort against the 2003 Marlins, just before the beginning of a run in which the Marlins went 57-33 and won the wild card.

• Seven times, more than one pitcher has been required to complete a Mets one hitter. Current Mets analyst Ron Darling and Jesse Orosco paired on the first of those-- against the Pirates on April 17, 1985. The Mets enlisted the assistance of first baseman Keith Hernandez in that one-- his ninth-inning sac fly brought in the winning run.

• The Padres, who also have never thrown a no-hitter, have 24 one-hitters, including four against the Mets (one in each of four straight seasons from 1991 to 1994). The face of the Padres franchise, Tony Gwynn was the final out of a no-hitter by the Braves in 1991, but avoided any dubious distinction with a fourth-inning double, the only hit in a David Cone one-hitter for the Mets in 1988.

• This isn't the only thing the Mets haven't done. What's more likely to come first: A Mets no-hitter, or a Mets hitter homering three times in a game AT HOME? Neither has ever happened.


Seaver and Ryan are the two Mets who have pitched a one-hitter who are in the Hall of Fame, likely to be joined eventually by Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, who gets partial credit for lasting four innings in a one-hitter against the Rockies on July 12, 2008 (four relievers finished the deal).

We’ll give an honorable mention to Shawn Estes, recently inducted into the Giants Wall of Fame. Estes threw a one-hitter for the Mets against the Brewers on April 26, 2002, beating the last Met to combine on one, Glendon Rusch, 1-0.

This bid was broken up by future ESPN baseball analyst Eric Young’s seventh-inning single. That’s not surprising given that Young hit .417 against Estes in the 36 at-bats in which they went head-to-head, though Estes got the last laugh by getting Young for the game’s final out.

Estes couldn’t win enough (his four wins as a Met are fewest among the one-hitter tossers), and the Mets don’t always win one-hitters. They’re 33-2 when they throw one, losing most recently to the Astros in 2006.

Cone and Jeff Innis lost their combined one-hitter to the Cardinals on September 14, 1991, but Cone would come back with a winning one-hitter against St. Louis in his next start (the only hit being a Felix Jose double to the warning track in left-center in the eighth inning).

“I wanted to treat these fans to something special,” Cone told reporters afterwards.

Those 1991 Mets would tease fans by throwing three one-hitters in an 11-day span near season's end (Pete Schourek had the other against the Expos, broken up by current White Sox GM Ken Williams), but couldn’t save the job of their skipper, Bud Harrelson, who would be fired a little more than a week later.

Harrelson held the Mets record for most one-hitters played in (of at least nine innings), with eight, until this year, when Jose Reyes surpassed him. Reyes also played in two rain-shortened one-hitters (by Glavine and John Maine) in 2007.

Reyes should remember the previously mentioned Trachsel one-hitter against the Angels well—it came the same day as his first big league grand slam.

That's a better memory than Mets legend Darryl Strawberry has of the one-hitter thrown against the Phillies by Sid Fernandez and Roger McDowell on May 11, 1985.

Strawberry tore ligaments in his thumb, preserving a then no-no with a third inning catch of a Juan Samuel fly ball, an injury that cost him 43 games, and may have made the difference in the Mets failing to beat out the Cardinals in the NL East race.

Strawberry came back from injury to help the Mets to the World Series title the next season. Jon Matlack came back from injury (a fractured skull suffered by being hit with a line drive) to nearly do so in 1973 (the Mets lost the World Series in seven games). But in lieu of a World Series, Matlack, who remembered throwing eight no-hitters in high school, threw one-hitters in both 1973 and 1974.

Matlack now works as the Tigers roving pitching instructor. Earlier this year, he tutored Armando Galarraga, not long before Galarraga threw his "imperfect game" against the Indians, so he can relate to what the Mets are going through in more ways than one.

"I think it's just bad luck," Matlack said, when asked for a former player's perspective on why we're celebrating Mets one-hitters instead of no-hitters. "The fates that go into it ... The baseball gods just haven't smiled on the Mets yet."

Maybe tonight.

Through the Years: Aces vs. Aces

May, 1, 2010
It’s not Johan Santana against Roy Halladay, but it’s still ace-of-the moment versus ace, and there’s no shame in the Mike Pelfrey-Halladay matchup this afternoon.

The history of ace-versus-ace in Metsdom dates back to the earliest days of the team. Roger Craig was initially the Mets top pitcher, but Al Jackson evolved into their best big-game performer, at least in terms of the kinds of big games that a team that lost 100-plus every year could have.

Jackson’s best claim to acehood came in his ability to match up with St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, whom he twice beat, 1-0, including once in the final days of a frantic 1964 pennant race.

In the 1970s, the preeminent matchup of aces pitted Tom Seaver against fellow future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, and Seaver got the better of that pairing on just about every occasion. When Seaver was a Met and Carlton was with the Phillies, the two met eight times. Seaver posted six wins and two no-decisions. That’s partly how the Mets beat Carlton 36 times, more than they beat any other pitcher.

Flash forward to the 1980s and the Dwight Gooden era, in which some of his most famous matchups were with Dodgers ace Fernando Valenzuela. They met six times from 1984 to 1989 and Gooden rose to the challenge. In those six starts, five of which came when Gooden was in his first two seasons in the majors, he was 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA, 57 strikeouts and seven walks. Valenzuela couldn’t even beat Gooden on a day in which he pitched 11 shutout innings against the Mets (he settled for a no-decision in a 2-0 loss on September 6, 1985).

With the Mets' fade in the early 1990s, they spent much of the decade lacking an ace pitcher with any staying power. One didn’t really arrive until Al Leiter came in a trade prior to the 1998 season. From 1998 to 2004, when the Braves dominated the Mets, Leiter was the one pitcher who regularly gave them a chance to win against Atlanta. He went 9-8 against the Braves, who basically threw an ace against them almost every time out. In the rest of the games, the Mets were 34-62. Braves co-ace Greg Maddux went 12-4 as a starter against the Mets in that span. Cohort Tom Glavine, before departing Atlanta, was 7-3. John Smoltz, who battled through injuries and also worked in the bullpen (where he saved 24 straight against the Mets) was 4-1 as a starter in the regular season.

The best ace-ace matchup of recent Mets vintage was the one that produced Willie Randolph’s first win as Mets manager on April 10, 2005. Smoltz and new Met Pedro Martinez dueled to a 1-0 score through seven innings before the Mets broke through on a go-ahead home run by Carlos Beltran on the way to an eventual 6-1 win. Smoltz finished with 15 strikeouts in defeat. Martinez had perhaps his best start as a Met, a nine-strikeout two-hitter.

Expecting Halladay-Pelfrey to live up to that kind of matchup might be too much to ask, but given the way things have gone for the Mets these days, it’s starting to seem like the improbable is becoming much more possible.



Juan Lagares
.314 1 7 8
HRL. Duda 3
RBIL. Duda 8
RE. Young Jr. 11
OPSL. Duda .841
WC. Torres 2
ERAJ. Mejia 2.81
SOJ. Mejia 18