Carroll: Yogi and The Mets

(Andy Esposito/Sportsday)

The timing of the Mets’ clinching the National League East title, coming a few days after the passing of Yogi Berra, started me thinking about the similarities between this Mets club and the 1973 “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets that Berra managed that came within one game of winning the World Series that year. The fact that they lost Game 7 to the Oakland Athletics, a far superior team, has unfortunately relegated that team to a more obscure status than they deserve.

In 1973 the National League East was a rather weak division, with four of the six teams, including the Mets bunched around the .500 mark, with the Amazins prevailing on the last day of the season. It can easily be argued that today’s NL East is even worse as three of the five teams: the Phillies, the Braves, and the Marlins having records far below the break-even mark while the Washington Nationals have hovered at just above it for most of the season. The Mets smartly took advantage of the situation.

Taking nothing away from what the Mets have accomplished so far, the key to them being NL East champs was the utter self-immolation of the Washington Nationals. Mets television play-by-play voice and Flushing native Gary Cohen even conceded this point during Saturday’s telecast.

I can’t remember a baseball with such a high payroll and so much talent squandering things to such a horrifying level. It’s one thing to just play poorly; it’s another to have such a toxic chemistry that teammates openly can’t stand each other.

On Sunday, the day after the Mets beat the Reds to clinch their division title, Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon verbally chastised and then threw punches at teammate, and probably National League MVP, Bryce Harper. Harper had let it be known to the media on Wednesday night following the Nats’ second straight loss to the Baltimore Orioles that basically finished off their chances of catching the Mets, that he wasn’t happy that Papelbon had brazenly hit Orioles slugger Manny Machado with a fastball in the ninth inning. Machado had hit a two-run homer two innings earlier that gave the Orioles a lead that they would not relinquish. Harper griped that he would probably get plunked with a fastball the following day.

Getting back to Yogi, I had the honor of meeting him numerous times but I don’t have any special tales to tell. I was always impressed by how accessible he was and how he always seemed to enjoy meeting his public. I never saw him turn down an autograph request.

My favorite Yogi story was about his devotion to his late wife Carmen. Baseball players have a reputation for having fun on road trips. When someone asked Yogi if he ever fantasized about having an extramarital affair, he quickly replied, “Why go out for hamburger when I have steak at home?”

All good things must end. The Jets, who looked so impressive in their first two games, quickly fell behind to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday 24-0 before scoring a touchdown right before halftime. It’s to their credit that they fought back to make the final score a respectable-sounding 24-17 but the truth is that they were never in the game.

With the Jets trailing 17-0 wide receiver Brandon Marshall caught a pass from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and then tried to lateral it to a teammate who was not prepared for Marshall’s improvisation. The end result was a fumble which the Eagles recovered. They would go onto score a touchdown a few plays later.

Marshall proved to be a good sport about his bonehead decision after the game. “That may be the worst play in NFL history!” he declared. Brandon, I think you have some competition in that regard. Just ask Giants fans.

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