Tom Seaver passed away on Wednesday at the age of 75. I never got to see him play, but without a doubt he’s the best Mets player in history. Before Seaver arrived in the big leagues in 1967, the Mets had never had anything resembling a winning season. In 1969, they shocked the world and legitimized the young franchise with a World Series title. To say that Seaver was a big part of that championship is an understatement. That season, he pitched 273.1 innings with a 2.21 ERA and won the Cy Young Award. Seaver clearly had a huge impact in the locker room as well.
The next spring, Seaver took the mound on April 22 and struck out 19 San Diego Padres, including the final 10 in a row. That number of consecutive strikeouts is still a major league record, and even if it is challenged, I don’t think anyone will ever again do it to close out a ballgame. The stamina, heart, and sheer willpower that go into that sort of feat may never be replicated.
Seaver won his second Cy Young Award in 1973, just in time to carry the Mets to a second National League Pennant. Tom Terrific won one more Cy Young in 1975. When the Mets traded him away in 1977, it is considered one of the saddest days in franchise history. The memories of the good times persist, though.
I might not be able to tell my kids what it was like to watch Seaver pitch, but I know I’ll never forget the impact he had on my favorite baseball team. Hopefully one day older Mets fans and the younger generation can have a “Jordan vs. LeBron” debate with Seaver and Jacob deGrom. The current reigning Cy Young winner is the closest thing my generation has to Seaver, especially those of us who are too young to remember Doc Gooden in his prime.
Hours before the news of Seaver passing reached Mets fans, the team was busy ending a losing streak in Baltimore. Although Michael Wacha allowed an early 2-0 lead to disappear, the Mets prevailed thanks to four hits and five RBI from Michael Conforto as well as some great work by David Peterson in his first relief outing.
That RBI double put the Mets ahead for good. After a Pete Alonso solo home run in the sixth inning, Conforto doubled home Rosario again in the seventh. In the eighth, the Mets rallied for four more runs to get out of Baltimore with a 9-4 victory. Heading into one final makeup game against the Yankees on Thursday, the Mets find themselves two games in the loss column behind Colorado for the final National League playoff spot.
Conforto is quietly having his finest ever season, hitting .331/.426/.534 with six home runs. The stats show that the biggest change has been in BABIP. Conforto is a career .301 BABIP guy, but this season he is hitting .404 on balls in play. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll regress, though, as Scooter is also recording a line drive percentage and hard hit percentage that are significantly higher than his career numbers.
Despite all the sobering ratings talk, the NBA Playoffs continue to entertain. On Tuesday night, Miami upset Milwaukee for the second straight game to take a surprising 2-0 series lead on the Eastern Conference favorites. The Heat are such an interesting team because they have a chance to make the NBA Finals without being carried by a superstar. Any time that happens, I get hope that a team like the Knicks can be successful in the league without getting super lucky in the draft lottery or free agency.
Of course, to do that, an organization needs great coaching and front office leadership, so there are bigger issues at play with New York. Anyway, the closest thing Miami has to a superstar is Jimmy Butler, and he scored just 13 points against the Bucks. It was solid team defense and a great performance off the bench by Tyler Herro that led the Heat to a huge win.
In the Western Conference, Houston barely escaped an upset bid by Oklahoma City in Game 7 of their first round series. A loss would have been disastrous for the Rockets, who have still never won the Western Conference in the James Harden era. The bearded baller had a dreadful shooting night, but he made a terrific defensive play when it mattered most to push his team into the next round.
With Houston clinging to a one-point lead in the closing seconds, Harden blocked Luguentz Dort’s three-point attempt and then dodged nimbly as Dort tried to throw the ball off of Harden to regain possession. That dodge turned out to not matter since replay showed Dort to be already out of bounds, but it was still a great moment for Harden, who is known for being lax on defense and not coming through in big moments.
Tonight we get to see if Toronto can bounce back and take a game from Boston after the Celtics won the first two games of a series that is supposed to be very competitive. Also, can Denver keep rolling against the favored Clippers after the Nuggets dramatically overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the first round? I’m just hoping to not be sick of sports after the Mets play the Yankees for the final time this season.